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.


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 BSDB 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.[/box]

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