I’m not sure how we missed it, but in May, the inventor of the lithium-ion battery received the Royal Society’s prestigious Copley Medal.
Professor John Goodenough from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin received the medal, the world’s oldest scientific prize. Already a fellow of the Royal Society, Goodenough was honored for his exceptional contributions to materials science, especially his discoveries that led to the invention of the rechargeable lithium battery. In case you’ve been living under a rock, lithium-ion batteries are a big part of the re-emergence of electric vehicles, improvement of grid storage, and the compact size of smartphones — all things that have made immeasurable impacts and will continue to.
Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said, “Professor Goodenough has a rich legacy of contributions to materials science in both a fundamental capacity, with his defining work on the properties of magnetism, to a widely applicable one, with his ever-advancing work on batteries, including those powering the smartphone in your very pocket. The Royal Society is delighted to recognise his achievements with the Copley Medal, our most prestigious prize.”
Over decades, the professor has worked on a variety of projects that have had big impacts, including work that led to the invention of Random Access Memory, or RAM, an critical component in modern computing. Professor Goodenough continues to work on new battery technology at UT Austin. Though his lithium-ion breakthrough provided a reliable, rechargeable battery, there are still shortcomings that Professor Goodenough aims to overcome with his latest work on solid-state batteries.
The Copley Medal was first awarded by the Royal Society in 1731, 170 years before the first Nobel Prize. As the latest recipient of the Royal Society’s premier award, Professor Goodenough joins an elite group of men and women, such as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, and Dorothy Hodgkin, who have been awarded the Copley Medal for their exceptional contributions to science and engineering in the past. In recent years, recipients include eminent scientists such as Peter Higgs, the physicist who hypothesized the existence of the Higgs Boson, as well as DNA fingerprinting pioneer Alec Jeffreys, and Andre Geim, who discovered graphene. Last year’s winner, Professor Jeffrey Gordon, was honored for his contributions to understanding the role of gut microbial communities to human health and disease.