Clarke Medal - The Royal Society of NSW

The Clarke Medal

The Clarke Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research in the natural sciences conducted in Australia and its territories.  The fields of botany, zoology, and geology are considered in rotation.  For 2019, the medal will be awarded in geology.  The recipient may be resident in Australia or elsewhere.

Nominations for the 2019 award will close on 30 September 2019. A letter of nomination and the nominee's full curriculum vitae should be sent to the Awards Committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The medal will be presented at the Society's Annual Dinner.

The Clarke Medal and Clarke Memorial Lecture were founded in memory of the Reverend William Branwhite Clarke, one of the fathers of the Royal Society of New South Wales.  When the Philosophical Society of New South Wales was reorganized and converted into the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1866, the Rev. W.B. Clarke, because of his acknowledged eminence as a geologist and his scientific services to the Colony, was elected a joint Vice-President, a position which he held until his death on 16th June 1878.  This meant that he was effectively the organizer of the Society, as at that time the Governor was ex-officio President.  Some Governors did take a specific interest, attending meetings and taking part in discussions.

Shortly after Clarke's death a memorial fund was opened at a meeting of the Society on 3rd July 1878.  It was intended that the memorial take the form of annual lectures on geology, free to the public (to be known as Clarke Memorial Lectures); and a gold medal to be presented periodically for distinguished contributions to Australian geology (the Clarke Medal).  However, contributions to the Clarke Memorial Fund did not immediately rise to the expectations of the Council, and it was not until October 1879 that it was possible to go ahead with one of the schemes - namely, the Clarke Medal.

The Medal was to be awarded "for meritorious contributions to Geology, Mineralogy and Natural History of Australasia, to be open to men of science, whether resident in Australasia or elsewhere".  The Council decided that the Medal be made of bronze instead of gold as originally intended, and a pair of dies was ordered from J.S. & A.B. Wyon of London at a cost of 100 guineas. The obverse side of the Medal bears a portrait of the Rev. W.B. Clarke looking to the left, beautifully engraved, as was all the work done by J.S. & A.B. Wyon at that time.

The Wyon family were practising medallists for a great many years and five in succession held the appointment of Medallist to the reigning Sovereign. At the Society's Annual General Meeting on 12th May 1880 the names of the first recipients of the Clarke Medal were announced.  The Medal for 1878 was to be awarded to Professor Richard Owen of the British Museum, famous for his studies of Australian vertebrate fossils; for 1879 to Mr. George Bentham of the Royal Gardens Kew, who made a major contribution to the study of the Australian flora; and for 1880 to Professor T.H. Huxley of the Royal School of Mines, London, for his valuable contributions to the knowledge of the natural history of Australia.

Over 50 Clarke Medals have been awarded.  The Award is now considered annually for distinguished work in the Natural Sciences (geology, botany and zoology) done in, or on, the Australian Commonwealth and its territories.  The disciplines are considered in rotation so that zoologists, for example, are considered for the award every three years. It remains a highly prized award among Australian scientists.

(The above notes were compiled by William Griffin, using notes on the history and purpose of the awards supplied by Dr David F. Branagan.)

The Clarke Medal 2018

The Clarke Medal 2018 in the field of Zoology has been awarded to Professor Emma Johnston AO FRSN.  She is Dean of Science at UNSW Sydney.

Professor Johnston is widely regarded for her exceptional contributions of our understanding of community ecology of marine animals. She applied the conceptual underpinnings of ecology to investigations of the most important contemporary drivers of ecosystem dynamics - human activities. By applying ecological principles to the study of human impacts on marine animals, Professor Johnston has created a highly original programme of research that not only progresses our fundamental knowledge in ecology, but also directly enables significant improvements in the management of marine systems.

   Year & Recipient   Year & Recipient


1878    Professor Sir Richard Owen
1879    George Bentham
1880    Professor Thomas Huxley
1881    Professor F. M'Coy
1882    Professor James Wright Dana
1883    Baron Ferdinand von Mueller
1884    Alfred R.C. Selwyn
1885    Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
1886    Professor L.G. De Koninck
1887    Sir James Hector
1888    Rev. Julian E. Tenison-Woods
1889    Robert Lewis John Ellery
1890    George Bennett
1891    Captain Frederick Wollaston Hutton
1892    Sir William Turner Thiselton Dyer
1893    Professor Ralph Tate
1895    Robert Logan Jack
1895    Robert Etheridge, Jnr.
1896    The Hon. Augustus Charles Gregory
1900    Sir John Murray
1901    Edward John Eyre
1902    F. Manson Bailey
1903    Alfred William Howitt
1907    Professor Walter Howchin
1909    Dr. Walter E. Roth
1912    W.H. Twelvetrees
1914    Sir A. Smith Woodward
1915    Professor W.A. Haswell
1917    Professor Sir Edgeworth David
1918    Leonard Rodway
1920    Joseph Edmund Carne
1921    Joseph James Fletcher
1922    Richard Thomas Baker
1923    Sir W. Baldwin Spencer
1924    Joseph Henry Maiden
1925    Charles Hedley
1927    Andrew Gibb Maitland
1928    Ernest C. Andrews
1929    Professor Ernest Willington Skeats
1930    L. Keith Ward (Geology)
1931    R.J. Tillyard (Entomology)
1932    F. Chapman (Palaeontology)
1933    W.G. Woolnough (Geology)
1934    E.S. Simpson (Mineralogy)
1935    G.W. Card (Geology)
1936    Sir Douglas Mawson (Geology)
1937    J.T. Jutson (Geology)
1938    H.C. Richards (Geology)
1939    C.A. Süssmilch (Geology)
1941    P. Wood Jones (Zoology)
1942    W.R. Browne (Geology)
1943    W.L. Waterhouse (Botany)
1944    W.E. Agar (Zoology)
1945    W.N. Benson (Geology)
1946    J.M. Black (Botany)
1947    H.L. Clark (Zoology)
1948    A.B. Walkom (Palaeobotany)
1949    Rev. H.M.R. Rupp (Botany)
1950    I.M. Mackerras (Zoology)
1951    F.L. Stillwell (Geology)
1952    J.G. Wood (Botany)
1953    A.J. Nicholson (Entomology)
1954    E. de C. Clarke (Geology)
1955    R.N. Robertson (Botany)

1956    O.W. Tiegs (Zoology)
1957    Irene Crespin (Geology)
1958    T.G.B. Osborn (Botany)
1959    T. Iredale (Zoology)
1960    A.B. Edwards (Geology)
1961    C.A. Gardner (Botany)
1962    H. Waring (Zoology)
1963    G.A. Joplin (Geology)
1964    J.W. Vickery (Botany)
1965    M.J. Mackerras (Zoology)
1966    D. Hill (Geology)
1967    S. Smith White (Botany)
1968    H.G. Andrewartha (Zoology)
1969    S. W. Carey (Geology)
1970    G. Whitley (Zoology)
1971    N.T. Burbridge (Botany)
1972    H. King (Geology)
1973    M.D. Hatch (Botany)
1974    C.H. Tyndale-Biscoe
1975    J.N. Jennings (Geography)
1976    Lilian R. Fraser
1977    A. Trendall (Geology)
1978    D.T. Anderson
1979    L.A.S. Johnson
1981    W. Stephenson
1982    N.C.W. Beadle
1983    K.A.W. Crook (Geology)
1984    Michael Archer (Palaeontology)
1985    H.B.S. Womersley
1986    David J. Groves (Geology)
1987    Anthony James Underwood
1988    Barry Garth Rolfe
1989    John Roberts (Geology)
1990    Barrie Gillen Molyneux Jamieson (Zoology)
1991    Shirley Winifred Jeffrey (Biology/Botany)
1992    Alfred Edward Ringwood (Geology)
1993    Gordon C. Grigg (Zoology)
1994    Joint award: Craig Anthony Atkins &
            Barbara Gillian Briggs (Botany)
1995    Christopher McAuley Powell (Geology)
1996    Klaus Rohde (Zoology)
1997    Charles Barry Osmond (Botany)
1998    Richard Limon Stanton AO (Geology)
1999    Richard Shine (Zoology)
2000    Sarah Elizabeth Smith (Agriculture)
2001    Gordon H. Packham (Geology)
2002    Professor Robert Hill (Botany)
2003    Professor Lesley Joy Rogers (Zoology)
2004    Professor Ian Plimer (Geology)
2005    Professor Mark Westoby (Botany)
2006    Professor Anthony Hulbert (Zoology)
2007    Professor Suzanne O'Reilly (Geology)
2008    Professor Bradley Potts (Botany)
2009    Dr Winston Ponder (Zoology)
2010    Professor Kenton Campbell (Geology)
2011    Professor Byron Lamont (Botany)
2012    Professor Marilyn Renfree (Zoology)
2013    Professor William Griffin (Geology)
2014    Professor Robert Park (Botany)
2015    Prof. Christopher Dickman (Zoology)
2016    Professor Simon P. Turner (Geology)
2017    Professor David Keith (Botany)
2018    Professor Emma Johnston AO (Zoology)


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Nominations for the Society’s awards close on 30 September each year.

For instructions for an award nomination, click on its name in the drop-down menu under "Awards" above.

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