The Darwin-Wallace Medal

Awarded to a person or group who have made major advances in evolutionary science.

Previously awarded to commemorate the 50th,100th and 150th anniversaries of the reading of the joint paper by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection", which was read on 1 July 1858, and published by the Linnean Society. In recognition of the continuing importance of research on evolutionary biology, the Council of the Society announced in 2008 that the medal would be awarded annually from 2010.

Nominations are now closed. Sign up to our newsletter, Linnean News, for updates on events, grants, awards and news from the Linnean Society of London.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Open to any scientist of any nationality, in the field of the understanding of evolution
  • For their major advances in evolutionary science and contribution to the wider natural history community, e.g. editorial and/or committee/policy work/public engagement
  • Nominee cannot, at the time of nomination, be a member of Council
  • Nominee does not need to be a Fellow of the Society
  • We do not accept self-nominations
Professor Ziheng Yang

Professor Ziheng Yang, University College London, Darwin-Wallace Medal 2023

Professor Ziheng Yang FRS has made unparalleled contributions to evolutionary biology, with his original insights and methods underpinning almost all research that uses genetic information to understand species divergence, adaptation and gene flow. Yang has invented a multitude of novel statistical models and methods for comparative analyses of sequence data that are now the foundation of the standard toolkit in molecular evolutionary biology.

Professor David Jablonski
Photo Credit: Jean Lachat

Professor David Jablonski, University of Chicago, Darwin-Wallace Medal 2022

David Jablonski has been one of the most influential and innovative palaeobiologists: a leader in the use of large-scale data sets to investigate macroevolutionary pattern over diverse temporal scales and levels in taxonomic hierarchy. His contributions cover topics as diverse as the effect of larval ecology on evolution, causes of the latitudinal diversity gradient, determinants and consequences of geographic range size, the origin and fate of evolutionary novelties, species selection, and, of pressing relevance, the biology and evolutionary impact of mass extinctions. Working with organisms from molluscs to mammals he has demonstrated that morphologically defined genera are largely concordant with clades present in molecular phylogenies, with coherent macroecological properties (like geographic range and body size), and therefore valid and meaningful evolutionary units for analyses of both fossil and living organisms. He is a tireless advocate for palaeobiology, and, more broadly, evolutionary biology.

Sarah P Otto

Dr Sarah P. Otto, University of British Columbia, Darwin-Wallace Medal 2021

Sally Otto is a Canadian mathematical evolutionary biologist at the University of British Columbia. She is one of the major evolutionary theorists who have generated a new and much more focused synthesis of the debate about the evolution of sex and recombination, in spite of its known evolutionary costs. She has developed new models that show that genetic drift, even in rather large populations, can provide a major evolutionary impetus for the evolution of sex.

She has also focused attention on the evolution of polyploidy, leading to a landmark paper in 2000 that for the first time estimated the fraction of plant species that originate by polyploidy. Her iconic "saw-tooth" graph of the distribution of chromosome numbers recorded in plants demonstrated that species with even numbers of chromosomes tend to outnumber species with odd numbers due to recent speciation by chromosome doubling, something that hadn’t been obvious to generations of previous workers studying speciation and polyploidy. In her scientific articles, she writes with admirable clarity, rather uncommon among theoreticians, which makes even complex topics easy for her readers to understand.

She co-founded the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and has served in leading roles in the Society for the Study of Evolution, the American Society of Naturalists and the European Society of Evolutionary Biology. She is also a passionate environmental advocate, serving on panels advising the Canadian government on climate change mitigation, and is a renowned advocate for biodiversity. She has been a strong supporter of equal opportunity action in science and has written a number of learned as well as popular articles specifically on this topic.

Professor Spencer Barrett

Professor Spencer Barrett, University of Toronto, Darwin-Wallace Medal 2020

Professor Barrett is one of the world’s leading authorities on the reproductive biology and genetics of flowering plants. Among his original findings is the first experimental demonstration of the selective purging of deleterious genes following inbreeding, the first genetic estimates of effective population size, and the most comprehensive evidence for the role of genetic drift in initiating adaptive changes in plant mating.

He also demonstrated, for the first time, that self-fertilisation has hidden costs because of lost mating opportunities through male fertility, a finding with profound implications for functional interpretation of plant reproductive traits. Professor Barrett provided the first experimental evidence in support of the Darwinian hypothesis for the adaptive significance of tristyly, and solved the long-standing puzzle of the evolution and function of mirror-image flowers.

These contributions have rejuvenated the field of reproductive biology making it one of the most active areas within ecology and evolutionary biology. In addition to his studies on plant reproduction, Professor Barrett is also an internationally recognised expert on the ecology and genetics of plant invasions and the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops. He has received numerous awards in recognition of his pre-eminence, and is one of the few Canadian biologists to be elected to both the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London. During his 31-year tenure at the University of Toronto, Professor Barrett has not only excelled as a scholar but also as an outstanding teacher, mentor and communicator of science.

Dr Josephine Pemberton
Dr Josephine Pemberton, Medal winner 2018