The Waddington Medal

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Background & History

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. The medal was announced in 1997 [letter #36] and first awarded in 1998 (see below). BSDB members are invited to nominate suitable candidates.

Waddington_medalConrad 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, 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.”

First description of the Waddington medal (Newsletter #36, 1997, p.9)


Waddington Medallists

We are very pleased to announce that the 2020 Waddington medal winner is Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS. After having served on the BSDB committee and then as treasurer (1999-2009), and only recently having stepped down as our chair, her efforts in supporting our community are well known. This prize will add to

a number of Ottoline’s awards that include listing in the 2017 New Year Honours list as DBE for her services to plant science, science in society and equality and diversity in the sciences. She has also been awarded the Society of Experimental Biology’s President’s Medal (2000), the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award (2007), the International Plant Growth Substance Association’s Silver Medal (2010), the UK Genetics Society Med

al (2016) and the EMBO Women in Science Award (2017). She is also a fellow of the Royal Society, an foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, a member of EMBO and the Leopoldina. So, we are very pleased to be able to add the 2020 Waddington medal to this list, in recognition of her contributions to UK Developmental Biology research and our community.

All recipients (links to information about the awardees from our archives are provided)

Look up the Waddington Medal on Wikipedia for more information.


Who we are looking for

The main constitutional purpose of the BSDB is to advance research and teaching in Developmental Biology and to promote the dissemination of research in this discipline. With the award of the Waddington Medal the BSDB wishes to acknowledge individuals whose outstanding contributions to Developmental Biology help the BSDBin fulfilling its purpose. While the Waddington medal is the most prestigious BSDB medal it is not necessarily meant to be a ‘life-time achievement’ award. Rather, nominees are usually still active in the field. Nominees will have made significant contributions to developmental biology. Examples of significant contribution to UK developmental biology include but are not limited to activity in the research community, mentoring UK developmental biologists, disseminating knowledge by e.g., contributing to a significant textbook or other aspects relevant to research and training in developmental biology.

Nominations for the Waddington Medal

(agreed by the BSDB committee)


15th of July each Year


Formal nominations should be made by email to the BSDB Secretary ( by the closing deadline but can be received at any time.


Must be BSDB member


One Proposer and one Seconder (both must be BSDB members)


One page A4 document in PDF format stating why the candidate is suitable, a brief summary of their career history, contributions made to the field and five key publications.


All members on the BSDB committee vote and a simple majority is sufficient to determine the winner. Voting will usually be organised at the end of July.


Nominations for the Waddington medal will be considered for a total of 3 consecutive years following the date of nomination unless otherwise indicated in the nomination or if the nomination is successful. Eligibility criteria still apply when nomination is rolled over. Nominators can update the nomination if they wish to do so, but this is not a requirement.


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