Brain development/Law/Policy School of Medicine

Gordon receives British Royal Society’s highest honor

Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, has received the prestigious Copley Medal from the Royal Society in Britain. Gordon, director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is being recognized for outstanding contributions to science in founding and leading the field of gut microbiome research. (Photo: Matt Miller)

Illuminated role of gut microbial communities in human health, disease

From the WashU Newsroom

Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received the 2018 Copley Medal from the Royal Society in Britain. He is being honored for his studies of human gut microbial communities, which have led to a fundamental shift in the way scientists understand the relationship between microbes, health and disease. His discoveries have shed new light on, among other things, the origins of two pressing global health problems: obesity and childhood malnutrition.

The Copley Medal, the most prestigious scientific award in the United Kingdom, is given annually for outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science. Past recipients include Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

First awarded in 1731, the Copley Medal predates the Nobel Prize by 170 years. The award committee alternates years in honoring scientists in the biological and physical sciences. Most recently, the society honored Andrew Wiles in 2017 for his elegant proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, which is considered one of the most important mathematical achievements of the 20th century; Richard Henderson in 2016 for his contributions to the development of cryoelectron microscopy, which allows the atomic structures of biologic materials to be deduced; and Peter Higgs in 2015 for his theory explaining the origin of mass in elementary particles, confirmed by experiments performed at the Large Hadron Collider.

“Professor Gordon is a scientist without peer in the microbiome research field,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society. “He is known as the founder of the field as well as the most ­influential human ­microbiome scientist ­working ­today. His discoveries have revealed how our gut microbial communities determine features of our physiology and metabolism, and point to a new era of microbiome-based therapeutics and preventive medicine. The Royal Society is delighted to recognize his achievements with the Copley Medal, our most prestigious prize.”

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