John M. Ball et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie
HRH The Princess Royal awarding Professor David Leigh FRSE with his medal, also pictured RSE President Sir John Ball PRSE – picture by Stewart Attwood Photography

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) this week to award two Royal Medals for outstanding contributions to scientific research.

The Princess Royal, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was officially welcomed to the RSE by its president Professor Sir John Ball on Wednesday, 8 November, to award Professor David Leigh FRSE and Professor Andrew Morris FRSE with their Royal Medals.

The IEEE/RSE James Clerk Maxwell Medal recipients were also in attendance to be awarded their medals. IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organisation dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, partnered with the RSE to establish the medal in 2006. It was created in honour of the 19th century Scottish mathematician and physicist, James Clerk Maxwell who was also a Fellow of the RSE. Maxwell laid the foundations of electromagnetic wave theory, radio propagation, microwave techniques, and radio communications.

President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Professor Sir John Ball, said: “I am very grateful to have been able to welcome Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to the Royal Society of Edinburgh to present the Royal Medals.

“I would like to congratulate the medalists Professor David Leigh and Professor Andrew Morris on their scientific achievements. They are truly exemplary of the RSE’s mission of knowledge for public good and as such thoroughly deserving of this recognition.”

Professor David Leigh FRSE, of the University of Manchester, was awarded the Royal Medal for “pioneering work in methods to control molecular-level dynamics.”    

Anne, Princess Royal et al. sitting in front of a laptop
HRH The Princess Royal speaking at the RSE – picture by Stewart Attwood Photography

His body of work on the synthesis of entwined and entangled molecular systems, in the form of threads, knots, and links, has been hailed as groundbreaking and has enabled the advancement of synthetic molecular machines, known as nanobots.

Professor Leigh said: “I am thrilled to accept the RSE Royal Medal on behalf of all the clever, enthusiastic and creative students and researchers who have worked with me over the years, particularly during my time at the University of Edinburgh.

“The molecules that they created represent the ultimate miniaturisation of machinery and have shed light on how chemistry becomes biology. It has been an honour to share this journey with them.”

Professor Andrew Morris FRSE, of the University of Edinburgh, was awarded his Royal Medal for “exceptional contributions to advancing health data science in Scotland and internationally.”    

A man in a suit standing in front of a sign
Professor David Leigh FRSE and Professor Andrew Morris FRSE with their medals – picture by Stewart Attwood Photography

His efforts have led to the creation of Health Data Research UK, for which he serves as inaugural director, and the creation of the UK’s Health Innovation Gateway, which has catalysed the trustworthy use of health data for patient and public benefit. This has already proven its worth in the fight against Covid-19 with real-time reporting to Chief Medical Officer advisory groups and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Professor Morris is professor of medicine, vice-principal in data science at the University of Edinburgh, and director of Health Data Research UK, the national institute for health data science.

He said: “It is a great honour to be the recipient of the Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Health data has the potential to change people’s lives for the better. This was underscored during the Pandemic when we were privileged to work with teams from across the UK and internationally. These collaborations demonstrated how health data science could create new knowledge and wisdom that improved health outcomes on a global scale.”

IEEE President and CEO Saifur Rahman presented the recipients with the IEEE/RSE James Clerk Maxwell Medal at the ceremony. “This award symbolizes the profound impact of electronics and electrical engineering innovation upon society,” remarked Mr Rahman. “The partnership between IEEE and RSE continues to serve as a catalyst for global collaboration and knowledge exchange, and we are honoured to join Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal and RSE in acknowledging those exceptional individuals who embody that legacy with their unwavering commitment to improving the human experience through technology.

Saifur Rahman, M. C. Frank Chang posing for a photo
David Jaggar, David Flynn, IEEE President Saifur Rahman, Mau-Chung Frank Chang and Ingo Wolff – picture by Stewart Attwood Photography

“On behalf of IEEE and medal sponsor ARM, we congratulate the 2019-2023 Maxwell Medal recipients David Flynn, David Jaggar, Ingo Wolff, and Mau-Chung Frank Chang on their many accomplishments and this prestigious recognition.” 

David Flynn and David Jaggar were recognised in 2019 for their “contributions to the development of novel Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architectures, adopted in more than 100 billion microprocessor cores worldwide.”    

Last year Ingo Wolff received recognition for his “development of numerical electromagnetic field analysis techniques to design advanced mobile and satellite communication systems.”

Finally, this year Mau-Chung Frank Chang has been recognised for his “contributions to heterojunction device technology and CMOS system-on-chip realizations with unprecedented reconfigurability and bandwidth.”    

The RSE Royal Medals were instituted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II, with 52 individual awardees to date. They are awarded annually to individuals who have achieved distinction and are of international repute in life, physical, engineering and informatic sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences and business, public service and public engagement.