The Linnean Society of London announced today that it will be presenting Darwin-Wallace medals to thirteen of the most significant evolutionary biologists of the last 50 years on Thursday 12th February - Darwin's 200th birthday (http://www.linnean.org/index.php?id=432). Whilst it is a shame that the medal was not awarded as tradition dictates on July 1st 2008, the 150th anniversary of the reading of the famous Darwin-Wallace paper, it is perhaps apt that the world will be reminded of Wallace's key role as the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection on this most important of all Darwin-related occasions!
The Darwin-Wallace medal was designed by Frank Bowcher in 1906. It was awarded on 1st July of 1908 and again in 1958 to commemorate the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the reading of the Darwin and Wallace paper which proposed evolution by natural selection. Wallace was the first recipient of the medal (the only gold example ever made) on the 50th anniversary, and the speech he gave on accepting it can be read here. From 2010 the medal will be awarded annually and sadly the Society in its wisdom has decided to present it in May each year, rather than on July 1st - the date it was originally created to celebrate.
I believe that the medal was re-minted recently, and I am not sure whether it is still made of silver.
The text of the Linnean's Press Release follows (also see http://www.linnean.org/fileadmin/images/Press_Releases/Linnean_Society_of_London_Darwin-Wallace_Medals_Images.pdf):
The Linnean Society of London will recognise the significant achievements of 13 outstanding scientists who have made major advances in evolutionary biology during the last 50 years at the presentation of the 2008 Darwin-Wallace Medals on February 12th 2009, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Robert Darwin. The award commemorates the 150th reading of the joint Darwin-Wallace paper “On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection” at the Linnean Society of London in 1858.
This joint paper provided a significant catalyst for research and the development of a new biological discipline – evolutionary biology. The rapid expansion of this field, particularly over the last 50 years and the application of knowledge relating to evolutionary processes in animals and plants has had profound implications for many areas of biology, including the conservation of endangered species and research into the aging process. Evolutionary techniques are also being applied in other disciplines, including nano-computing and industrial engineering.
The President of the Linnean Society, Professor David Cutler, who will present the awards comments “This is a very special occasion in the calendar of the Linnean Society of London. Those awarded medals join a group of illustrious names spanning 150 years of research endeavour in this expanding and significant field”.
Medals will be awarded to Professor Nicholas Barton FRS, Professor Mark Chase FRS, FLS, Professor Bryan Clarke FRS, FLS, Professor Joseph Felsenstein, the late Professor Stephen Jay Gould, Professor Peter Grant FRS, FLS, Dr Rosemary Grant FRS, Professor James (Jim) Mallet FLS, Professor Lynn Margulis FLS, the late Professor John Maynard Smith FRS, FLS, Professor Mohamed Noor, Professor H Allen Orr and Professor Linda Partridge FRS.
In recognition of the continued importance of this research and its interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary applications, the Society is delighted to announce that it will award the Darwin-Wallace medal on an annual basis from May 2010.