Rumford Medal

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Not to be confused with the Rumford Prize
Count Rumford (Sir Benjamin Thompson), for whom the award is named.

The Rumford Medal is an award bestowed by Britain's Royal Society every alternating year for "an outstandingly important recent discovery in the field of thermal or optical properties of matter made by a scientist working in Europe". First awarded during 1800, it was created after a 1796 donation of $5000 by the scientist Benjamin Thompson, known as Count Rumford, and is accompanied by a gift of £1000. Since its inception, the award has been granted to 101 scientists, including Rumford himself during 1800. It has been awarded to citizens of the United Kingdom fifty-three times, Germany seventeen times, France fourteen times, the Netherlands seven times, Sweden four times, the United States three times, Italy twice and once each to citizens of Australia, Hungary, Belgium, Luxembourg and New Zealand.

List of recipients

Year Name Nationality Rationale Notes
1800 Thompson, BenjaminBenjamin Thompson British "For his various discoveries respecting Heat and Light" [1]
1802 No award
1804 Leslie, JohnJohn Leslie British "For his Experiments on Heat, published in his work, entitled, An Experimental Enquiry into the Nature and Propagation of Heat"
1806 No award
1808 Murdoch, WilliamWilliam Murdoch British "For his publication of the employment of Gas from Coal, for the purpose of illumination"
1810 Malus, Étienne-LouisÉtienne-Louis Malus French "For the discovery of certain new properties of Reflected Light, published in the second volume of the Memoires dArcueil" [2]
1812 No award
1814 Wells, William CharlesWilliam Charles Wells British "For his Essay on Dew, published in the course of the preceding (1815) year" [3]
1816 Davy, HumphryHumphry Davy British "For his Papers on Combustion and Flame, published in the last volume of the Philosophical Transactions" [4]
1818 Brewster, DavidDavid Brewster British "For his Discoveries relating to the Polarization of Light" [5]
1820 No award
1822 No award
1824 Fresnel, Augustin-JeanAugustin-Jean Fresnel French "For his Development of the Undulatory Theory as applied to the Phenomena of Polarized Light, and for his various important discoveries in Physical Optics" [6]
1826 No award
1828 No award
1830 No award
1832 Daniell, John FredericJohn Frederic Daniell British "For his Paper, entitled, Further Experiments with a new Register Pyrometer, for measuring the expansion of Solids, published in the Philosophical Transactions for 1831" [7]
1834 Melloni, MacedonioMacedonio Melloni Italian "For his discoveries relevant to radiant heat" [8]
1836 No award
1838 Forbes, James DavidJames David Forbes British "For his experiments on the polarization of heat, of which an account was published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh" [9]
1840 Biot, Jean-BaptisteJean-Baptiste Biot French "For his researches in, and connected with, the circular polarization of light" [10]
1842 Talbot, William FoxWilliam Fox Talbot British "For his discoveries and improvements in photography" [11]
1844 No award
1846 Faraday, MichaelMichael Faraday British "For his discovery of the optical phenomena developed by the action of magnets and electric currents in certain transparent media, the details of which are published in the nineteenth series of his experimental researches in electricity, inserted in the Philosophical Transactions for 1845 and in the Philosophical Magazine" [12]
1848 Regnault, Henri VictorHenri Victor Regnault French "For his experiments to determine the laws and the numerical data which enter into the calculation of steam engines" [13]
1850 Arago, FrançoisFrançois Arago French "For his experimental investigations on polarized light, the concluding memoirs on which were communicated to the Academy of Sciences of Paris during the last two years"
1852 Stokes, George GabrielGeorge Gabriel Stokes British "For his discovery of the change in the refrangibility of light"
1854 Arnott, NeilNeil Arnott British "For the successful construction of the smokeless fire grate lately introduced by him, and for other valuable improvements in the application of heat to the warming and ventilation of apartments"
1856 Pasteur, LouisLouis Pasteur French "For his discovery of the nature of racemic acid and its relations to polarized light, and for the researches to which he was led by that discovery"
1858 Jamin, JulesJules Jamin French "For his various experimental researches on light"
1860 Maxwell, James ClerkJames Clerk Maxwell British "For his researches on the composition of colours, and other optical papers"
1862 Kirchhoff, GustavGustav Kirchhoff German "For his researches on the fixed lines of the solar spectrum, and on the inversion of the bright lines in the spectra of artificial light"
1864 Tyndall, JohnJohn Tyndall British "For his researches on the absorption and radiation of heat by gases and vapours"
1866 Fizeau, HippolyteHippolyte Fizeau French "For his optical researches, & especially for his investigations into the effect of heat on the refractive power of transparent bodies"
1868 Stewart, BalfourBalfour Stewart British "For his researches on the qualitative as well as quantitative relation between the emissive and absorptive powers of bodies for heat and light, published originally in [1858 & 1859]"
1870 Cloizeaux, Alfred DesAlfred Des Cloizeaux French "For his researches in mineralogical optics"
1872 Anders Jonas Ångström Swedish "For his researches on spectral analysis"
1874 Lockyer, Joseph NormanJoseph Norman Lockyer British "For his spectroscopic researches on the Sun and on the chemical elements"
1875 Draper, John WilliamJohn William Draper American "For his Researches on Radiant Energy"
1876 Janssen, JulesJules Janssen French "For his numerous & important researches in the radiation & absorption of light, carried on chiefly by means of the spectroscope"
1878 Cornu, AlfredAlfred Cornu French "For his various optical researches, and especially for his recent redetermination of the velocity of the propagation of light"
1880 Huggins, WilliamWilliam Huggins British "For his important researches in astronomical spectroscopy, and especially for his determination of the radial component of the proper motions of stars"
1882 Abney, William de WiveleslieWilliam de Wiveleslie Abney British "For his photographic researches and his discovery of the method of photographing the less refrangible part of the spectrum, especially the infra-red region; also for his researches on the absorption of various compound bodies in this part of the spectrum"
1884 Thalen, Tobias RobertusTobias Robertus Thalen Swedish "For his spectroscopic researches"
1886 Langley, Samuel PierpontSamuel Pierpont Langley American "For his researches on the spectrum by means of the Bolometer"
1888 Tacchini, PietroPietro Tacchini Italian "For important and long-continued investigations, which have largely advanced our knowledge of the physics of the Sun"
1890 Hertz, HeinrichHeinrich Hertz German "For his work in electromagnetic radiation"
1892 Dunér, Nils ChristofferNils Christoffer Dunér Swedish "For his spectroscopic researches on stars"
1894 Dewar, JamesJames Dewar British "For his researches on the properties of matter at extremely low temperatures"
1896 Lenard, PhilippPhilipp Lenard and Wilhelm Röntgen German "For their investigations of the phenomena produced outside a highly exhausted tube through which an electrical discharge is taking place"
1898 Lodge, OliverOliver Lodge British "For his researches in radiation and in the relations between matter and ether"
1900 Becquerel, HenriHenri Becquerel French "For his discoveries in radiation proceding [sic] from uranium"
1902 Parsons, Charles AlgernonCharles Algernon Parsons British "For his success in the application of the steam turbine to industrial purposes, and for its recent extension to navigation"
1904 Rutherford, ErnestErnest Rutherford New Zealander "For his researches on radio-activity, particularly for his discovery of the existence and properties of the gaseous emanations from radio-active bodies"
1906 Callendar, Hugh LongbourneHugh Longbourne Callendar British "For his experimental work on heat"
1908 Lorentz, HendrikHendrik Lorentz Dutch "On the ground of his investigations in optical and electrical science"
1910 Rubens, HeinrichHeinrich Rubens German "On the ground of his researches on radiation, especially of long wave length"
1912 Onnes, Heike KamerlinghHeike Kamerlingh Onnes Dutch "On the ground of his researches at low temperatures"
1914 Strutt, JohnJohn Strutt British "On the ground of his investigations in thermo-dynamics and on radiation"
1916 Bragg, William HenryWilliam Henry Bragg British "On the ground of his researches in X-ray radiation"
1918 Fabry, CharlesCharles Fabry and Alfred Perot French "On the ground of their contributions to optics"
1920 Strutt, RobertRobert Strutt British "On the ground of his researches into the properties of gases at high vacua"
1922 Zeeman, PieterPieter Zeeman Dutch "For his researches in optics"
1924 Boys, Charles VernonCharles Vernon Boys British "For his invention of the gas calorimeter"
1926 Schuster, ArthurArthur Schuster British "For his services to physical science, especially in the subjects of optics and terrestrial magnetism"
1928 Paschen, FriedrichFriedrich Paschen German "For his contributions to the knowledge of spectra"
1930 Debye, PeterPeter Debye Dutch "For his work relating to specific heats and X-ray spectroscopy"
1932 Haber, FritzFritz Haber German "For the outstanding importance of his work in physical chemistry, especially in the application of thermodynamics to chemical reactions"
1934 Haas, Wander Johannes deWander Johannes de Haas Dutch "For his researches on the properties of bodies at low temperatures, and in particular, for his recent work on cooling by the use of adiabatic demagnetisation"
1936 Coker, Ernest GeorgeErnest George Coker British "For his researches on the use of polarized light for investigating directly the stresses in transparent models of engineering structures"
1938 Wood, RobertRobert Wood American "In recognition of his distinguished work and discoveries in many branches of physical optics"
1940 Siegbahn, ManneManne Siegbahn Swedish "For his pioneer work in high precision X-ray spectroscopy and its applications"
1942 Dobson, GordonGordon Dobson British "In recognition of his outstanding work on the physics of the upper air and its application to meteorology"
1944 Ricardo, HarryHarry Ricardo British "In recognition of his important contributions to research on the internal combustion engine, which have greatly influenced the development of the various types"
1946 Egerton, AlfredAlfred Egerton British "In recognition of his leading part in the application of modern physical chemistry to many technological problems of pressing importance"
1948 Simon, FrancisFrancis Simon German "For his outstanding contributions to the attainment of low temperatures and to the study of the properties of substances at temperatures near the absolute zero" [14]
1950 Whittle, FrankFrank Whittle British "For his pioneering contributions to the jet propulsion of aircraft" [15]
1952 Zernike, FritsFrits Zernike Dutch "In recognition of his outstanding work in the development of phase contrast microscopy" [16]
1954 Burch, Cecil ReginaldCecil Reginald Burch British "For his distinguished contributions to the technique for the production of high vacua and to the development of the reflecting microscope" [17]
1956 Bowden, Frank PhilipFrank Philip Bowden Australian "In recognition of his distinguished work on the nature of friction" [18]
1958 Merton, Thomas RalphThomas Ralph Merton British "In recognition of his distinguished researches in spectroscopy and optics" [19]
1960 Gaydon, Alfred GordonAlfred Gordon Gaydon British "In recognition of his distinguished work in the field of molecular spectroscopy and particularly its application to the study of flame phenomena"
1962 Newitt, Dudley MauriceDudley Maurice Newitt British "In recognition of his distinguished contributions to chemical engineering" [20]
1964 van de Hulst, HendrikHendrik van de Hulst Dutch "In recognition of his distinguished work on the scattering processes in the interplanetary medium and his prediction of the 21 cm spectral line from interstellar neutral hydrogen"
1966 Penney, WilliamWilliam Penney British "In recognition of his distingsuihed [sic] and paramount personal contribution to the establishment of economic nuclear energy in Great Britain" [21]
1968 Gabor, DennisDennis Gabor Hungarian "In recognition of his distinguished contributions to optics, especially by establishing the principles of holography" [22]
1970 Hinton, ChristopherChristopher Hinton British "In recognition of his outstanding contributions to engineering and of his leadership of engineering design teams in the chemical and atomic energy industries and in electricity generation" [23]
1972 Mason, Basil JohnBasil John Mason British "In recognition of his distinguished contributions to meteorology, particularly the physics of clouds" [24]
1974 Cottrell, AlanAlan Cottrell British "In recognition of his contributions to physical metallurgy and particularly extending knowledge of the role of dislocation in the fracture of metals"
1976 Prigogine, IlyaIlya Prigogine Belgian "In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the theory of irreversible thermodynamics"
1978 Porter, GeorgeGeorge Porter British "In recognition of his distinguished studies of very fast chemical reactions by flash photolysis" [25]
1980 Vinen, William FrankWilliam Frank Vinen British "In recognition of his discovery of the quantum of circulation in superfluid helium and his development of new techniques for precise measurements within liquid helium"
1982 Wynne, Charles GorrieCharles Gorrie Wynne British "In recognition of his unique contribution to the design of optical instruments ranging from large telescopes to bubble-chamber optics"
1984 Hopkins (physicist), HaroldHarold Hopkins (physicist) British "In recognition of his many contributions to the theory and design of optical instruments, especially of a wide variety of important new medical instruments which have made a major contribution to clinical diagnosis and surgery"
1986 Rooke, DenisDenis Rooke British "In recognition of his contributions to scientific developments in the gas industry" [26]
1988 Weinberg, FelixFelix Weinberg British "In recognition of his pioneering work on optical diagnostics and electrical aspects of combustion and his fundamental studies of flame problems associated with jet engines and furnaces" [27]
1990 Spear, Walter EricWalter Eric Spear German "For discovering and applying techniques for depositing and characterising thin films of high quality amorphous silicon and for demonstrating that these can be doped to give useful electronic devices, such as cost-effective solar cells and large arrays of thin film transistors, now used in commercial, flat-panel, LCD colour TV screens" [28]
1992 Temperley, Harold Neville VazeilleHarold Neville Vazeille Temperley British "In recognition of his wide-ranging and imaginative contributions to applied mathematics and statistical physics, especially in the physical properties of liquids and the development of the Temperley-Lieb algebra"
1994 Keller, AndrewAndrew Keller British "In recognition of his contributions to polymer science, in particular his elucidation of the basis of polymeric crystallization, a fundamental ingredient in many materials, to methods of making strong fibres and to the understanding of polymer solutions which underlie this technology" [29]
1996 Turner, GrenvilleGrenville Turner British "In recognition of his work on the 40Ar/39Ar method of dating developing this technique to a sophisticated level and one which is widely used for dating extraterrestrial and terrestrial rocks" [30]
1998 Friend, RichardRichard Friend British "In recognition of his leading research in the development of polymer-based electronics and optoelectronics leading to a very rapid growth of development activities aimed at plastic electronic displays, with advantages of very low cost, flexibility, and the option of curved or flat surfaces" [31]
2000 Sibbett, WilsonWilson Sibbett British "In recognition of his research on ultra-short pulse laser science and technology. In his work on streak cameras, he first demonstrated the technique of sub-picosecond chronoscopy whereby the cameras, by synchronous repetition, can function as oscilloscopes. He conducted pioneering work on coupled cavity modelocking, and his discovery of the technique of self-modelocking led to the commercialisation of sub-picosecond pulses over a wide tuning range. He also exploited diode-pumped solid-state lasers in nonlinear optics for frequency conversion by demonstrating the world's first all-solid-state optical parametric oscillator" [32]
2002 King, DavidDavid King British "for his outstanding contributions to our fundamental understanding of the structure and dynamics of reaction processes on solid surfaces" [33]
2004 Dixon, RichardRichard Dixon British "in recognition of his many contributions to molecular spectroscopy and to the dynamics of molecular photodissociation" [34]
2006 Hansen, Jean-PierreJean-Pierre Hansen Luxembourger "for his pioneering work on molten salts and dense plasmas that has led the way to a quantitative understanding of the structure and dynamics of strongly correlated ionic liquids" [35]
2008 Hinds, EdwardEdward Hinds British "for his extensive and highly innovative work in ultra-cold matter" [36]
2010 Lonzarich, GilbertGilbert Lonzarich British "for his outstanding work into novel types of quantum matter using innovative instrumentation and techniques"
2012 Taylor, RoyRoy Taylor British "for his outstanding contributions to tunable ultrafast lasers and nonlinear fibre optics, including fibre Raman, soliton and supercontinuum laser sources, which translated fundamental discoveries to practical technology"
2014 Baumberg, JeremyJeremy Baumberg British "for his outstanding creativity in nanophotonics, investigating many ingenious nanostructures, both artificial and natural to support novel plasmonic phenomena relevant to Raman spectroscopy, solar cell performance and meta-materials applications."
2016 Hess, OrtwinOrtwin Hess German/British "for his pioneering work in active nano-plasmonics and optical metamaterials with quantum gain."



  • "The Rumford Medal". 


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