The Waddington Medal

The Waddington Medal, the only national award in developmental biology, is awarded for outstanding research performance as well as services to the subject community. The medal is awarded annually at the BSDB Spring Meeting, where the recipient presents the Waddington Medal Lecture. Potential recipients may be nominated by BSDB members.


Conrad Waddington was a leading British embryologist and geneticist who was highly influential in the development of both subjects during the 1930s through to the 1960s. He stressed the importance of genes and the control of gene activity in embryonic development even before the chemical nature of the gene was discovered. He had started his career as a palaeontologist , and the design on the medal shows an ammonite (see above), a type of animal whose shell structure reveals its entire life history. On the other side is a snake eating its tail, symbolising feedback control, and a Greek inscription meaning “one entity incorporates into itself all other entities of the universe.”

Current recipient

Congratulations to Jim Smith, Director of the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and Director of Research at the Francis Crick Institute, who received the 2013 Waddington medal at the Spring Meeting in Warwick. Jim Smith joined the staff of NIMR in 1984 and stayed until 2001. During that time his lab carried out seminal work identifying activin as a mesoderm inducing factor. He was Head of the Division of Development Biology for nine years and Head of the Genes and Cellular Controls Group for four years. After eight years as director of the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute in Cambridge he returned to NIMR in 2009 to take up the post of Director. His current research investigates how cells of the early vertebrate embryo respond to organsing signals to form specialised tissues such as muscle, skin, blood and bone. His work aims to inform attempts to drive stem cells along particular developmental pathways.


Jim was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1993 and was a Founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998.  He is also an Honorary Professor at UCL, an EMBO member and a member of the Academia Europaea. Jim has previously received many awards and prizes, including the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Medal and the Feldberg Foundation Award. For many years he was Editor-in-Chief of Development. From April 2014 Jim will be come Deputy CEO of the Medical Research Council.


Past recipients

  • 2012 Alfonso Martinez Arias
  • 2011 Christopher Wylie
  • 2010 Robin Lovell-Badge
  • 2009 Liz Robertson
  • 2008 Pat Simpson
  • 2007 David Ish-Horowicz
  • 2006 Claudio Stern
  • 2005 Michael Akam
  • 2004 Jeff Williams
  • 2003 Julian Lewis
  • 2002 Jonathan Slack
  • 2001 Mike Bate
  • 2000 Peter Lawrence
  • 1999 Rosa Beddington
  • 1998 Cheryll Tickle

Nominations for the Waddington Medal

Nominees should be outstanding developmental biologists who have made a significant contribution to UK developmental biology and who are still currently active in the field. Examples of significant contribution to UK developmental biology include: activity in the community, mentoring UK developmental biologists, and contributing to a significant textbook or other aspect of teaching and/or training.

The following nomination procedure has been agreed by the Committee:

  • Formal nominations should be made to the BSDB Secretary by the closing deadline each year, but can be received at any time.
  • Nominations should consist of a statement of support (maximum 1 page A4) from a Proposer and Seconder (both Society members), stating why the candidate is suitable for the Medal, giving a brief summary of his/her career history and listing five key publications.
  • All nominations received will be considered, and voted upon, by the Committee at the end of July each year.
  • The winner will be invited to present the Waddington Medal lecture at the following BSDB Spring Meeting, where the medal will be presented by the Chairman.