The Medals
The Society awards three medals, the John F.W. Herschel Medal, the Marloth Medal (introduced in 2016) and the Meiring Naudé Medal, all of which are accompanied by a certificate indicating the name of the recipient and justification for the award.

1.    The John F.W. Herschel Medal
The senior medal of the Royal Society of South Africa is named after Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1791-1871), who lived in Cape Town as an astronomer from 1834 to 1838 and whose grave lies close to Isaac Newton’s in Westminster Abbey. Herschel was a remarkable scientist; he was well known for surveying the southern skies and for describing the unique flora of the Cape but was also exceptionally gifted in a number of other disciplines. While diversity at such a level was possible in the 19th century, it is generally not feasible in the 21st. Because science has become far more complex many basic sciences are themselves multifaceted and may even be inter-disciplinary in their own right. However, while the nature of diversity in scientific endeavour may have changed, its existence has not, and it is this diversity, however defined, that the Society wishes to acknowledge with this medal.
The medal is awarded to those who are outstanding in either a field of research that straddles disciplines or in more than one unrelated field.

2.    The Marloth Medal
By awarding this medal, the Society wishes to emphasize and celebrate the pioneering contributions of the late Professor Hermann Wilhelm Rudolf Marloth (1855-1931), chemist and botanist and his son the late Dr Raimund Hilmar Marloth,  born in 1904 and a pomologist by profession. Both father and son were Fellows of the Society, Rudolf in 1908 and Raimund in 1957, and left generous bequests to the Society without which the Society may not have survived.

After studying in Germany Professor Marloth took up a pharmacy position in South Africa, where his interest in botany blossomed. He produced the seminal “Flora of South Africa”, a mammoth work published in 6 volumes between 1913 and 1932, which included a supplementary “Dictionary of the Common Names of Plants” in 1917.   Raimund, once employed as Director of the Citrus and Subtropical research Institute in Nelspruit, published a number of papers all on the science of fruit-growing. 

The Marloth Medal shall be awarded to an individual deemed to have had a highly distinguished career and to have made a significant contribution to advancing his or her discipline through writings, service to science, nurturing younger professionals and fostering the public understanding of science.  (This medal is distinguishable from the Herschel Medal in emphasising service to science while not requiring the recipient to be active in multi-disciplinary science.)

3.    The Meiring Naudé Medal
The junior medal of the Royal Society of South Africa is named for Stefan Meiring Naudé (1904-1985), who was President of the Society in 1960-1961. Naudé was a physicist who graduated from the University of Stellenbosch in the 1920s and studied in Berlin under Max Planck, Albert Einstein and other renowned scientists. He obtained his PhD in 1928 and, in 1932 at the age of 38, gained international recognition when he discovered the isotope N15. After a short academic career, first at the University of Cape Town and later at the University of Stellenbosch, in 1946 Naudé became the first Director of the National Physical Research Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He was President of the CSIR from 1952 to 1971 when he accepted the position of Scientific Advisor to the South African Prime Minister. Naudé was a champion of modern scientific organisation and a promoter of young South African scientific talent.
The medal shall be awarded to outstanding early career scientists, who have already made a mark in their field and who are poised to become scientific leaders. Candidates shall either be under 35 years of age or have been awarded their doctorate within five years of nomination.Frequency of award
All medals may be awarded annually to one or more successful candidates.
The Society shall not be obliged to bestow a medal every year if no meritorious candidate is nominated.Candidates for medals

Candidates :

  •     should preferably be Fellows or Members of the Society, but this is not a requirement;
  •     may be resident in southern Africa or abroad;
  •     shall have contributed significantly to southern African science;
  •     shall, for the Meiring Naudé Medal, fulfill the criteria as above;
  •     shall, for the John F.W. Herschel Medal, have made a multi-disciplinary contribution to science;
  •     shall, for the Marloth Medal, fulfill the criteria as above.

Nomination process

Nominations shall be:

  • made by a Fellow or Member, with the support of three Fellows, none of whom shall be members of Council. Forms are available from the Office;
  • received by email to or posted to the General Secretary, Royal Society of SA, 6.76 P.D. Hahn Building, University of Cape Town, Rhodes Gift 7700 by 31st July each year;
  •  formally made in a letter of nomination specifying the candidate’s name, degrees, qualifications, profession and usual place of residence, together with a Curriculum Vitae, a publication list and other relevant supporting documents;
  •  accompanied by a full and detailed justification that highlights the candidate’s particular worthiness for the award of the  medal.

Selection process

  • Screening shall be undertaken by a Fellows’ Adjudication Committee, consisting of current Fellows on Council.
  • After reaching its decision the Committee shall obtain ratification of its choice of candidate(s) from the full Council.
  • The names of recipients of the medals shall be announced at the Society’s Annual Meeting or on another appropriate occasion.

Other Medals and Certificates
From time to time, Council may make other awards, which

  • may comprise a medal, a certificate or both;
  • shall be proposed by Fellows or Members, who advance justification for such an award;
  • may recognize non-academic services to science, including community service and contributions to the Society itself. (For example, two special Centenary Medals for service to the Society were awarded in 2008, one for managing Society finances and the other for promoting Branch activities.)

Awarding of Medals
Will take place at the Society’s Annual Dinner where a specially struck medal and a certificate will be handed to the medalist.   One year’s free membership of the Society is offered to recipients who are non-members.   Recipients will enjoy all the same benefits of membership as Ordinary Members.