Automotive industry heavyweights, artificial intelligence pioneers and food bio-fortification luminaries are amongst the fifty eminent scientists elected as Fellows of the Royal Society and ten as new Foreign Members for their exceptional contributions to science.
Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, says: “Our Fellows are key to the Royal Society’s fundamental purpose of using science for the benefit of humanity. From Norwich to Melbourne to Ethiopia, this year’s newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society are testament that science is a global endeavour and excellent ideas transcend borders. We also recognise the cutting edge innovation taking place across industry, with many of this year’s Fellows coming from the thriving tech industry. For their outstanding contributions to research and innovation, both now and in the future, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the world’s best scientists into the ranks of the Royal Society.”
Cathie Martin is recognised for her seminal advances in plant sciences and biofortification, including the development of purple tomatoes with enhanced nutritional content. Internationally renowned engineer, inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk has been elected a Fellow for his contributions to space travel, sustainable electric transportation, solar power, low-cost internet satellites and hypersonic ground transportation.
Artificial intelligence researcher Demis Hassabis also joins the Fellowship thanks to his pioneering work merging cognitive neuroscience and machine learning to produce breakthroughs in deep learning that helped master the game of Go with AlphaGo. He joins Irish mathematician Kevin Costello, who has been recognised for his contributions towards creating a mathematically precise formulation of quantum field theory.
Theoretical physicist and award-winning broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili has been made a Fellow for his work on the neutron halo as well as his dedicated service to public engagement. Lalita Ramakrishnan has been elected for her pioneering zebrafish model of tuberculosis, which has enabled her to uncover entirely new approaches to treating the disease in humans. Sheila Rowan is recognised for her key contributions to the discovery of gravitational radiation, particularly her innovative work improving the sensitivity of the LIGO (and other) detectors.
Michelle Simmons joins the ranks of the Royal Society for her ground-breaking achievements that have opened a new frontier of research in computing and electronics globally, providing a platform for redesigning conventional transistors and for developing a quantum computer. John Speakman, the world’s leading expert in animal energy expenditure, is also recognised. His work has provided key insights into fields as far ranging as ageing, obesity, mathematics and evolution.
Palaeontologist Gregory Edgecombe is honoured this year for his research integrating the morphology of Cambrian fossils with evidence from living animals that has resolved the long contested relationships of insects in evolutionary trees. Also joining the list is Ingrid Scheffer, whose advances in our understanding of the genetic basis of epilepsy transformed the way we think and treat the disease.
Sebsebe Demissew has been made a Foreign Member for his lifelong work on promoting Ethiopian biodiversity and the direct benefit this has daily for people in his country, and right across Africa. Jeffrey Friedman also joins the ranks for the discovery of leptin, the satiety hormone. The identification of leptin has uncovered a new endocrine system that radically changes the way we think about obesity, and has led to new treatments for several human diseases.
Carolyn Bertozzi also joins the ranks of Foreign Members for her pioneering field of bio-orthogonal chemistry, helping us understand the role sugars play in the development of cancer and inflammation, as well as how to deliver drugs to specific cells in the body. Joachim Sauer is also elected as Foreign Member of the Royal Society for his unique contributions to chemistry, specifically the application of quantum chemical techniques to solid state, surface and catalytic science.
Lord Willetts, Privy Councillor and Minister for Universities and Science 2010 – 2014, has been made an Honorary Fellow for his consistent and high quality championing of science. Since leaving Government he has, amongst other things, become a visiting Professor at King’s College London, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Times Higher Education, Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation and Chair of the British Science Association.
The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from or living and working in the UK and the Commonwealth.
Some statistics about this year’s intake are as follows:
14 of this year’s intake of Fellows (12) and Foreign Members (2) are women
New Fellows have been elected from across the UK and Commonwealth, including Auckland, Melbourne, Newcastle, Surrey and Toronto, along with those from international institutions in Israel, Ethiopia, Italy and Switzerland