Renowned, brilliant, and increasingly eccentric astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is to receive the oldest award for scientific achievement today, in recognition of his huge contribution to our understanding* of the universe.
The Copley Medal, inaugurated in 1731, predates the Nobel prize by some 170 years. It was first awarded to Stephen Gray "for his new electrical experiments".
As an additional recognition of Hawking's work, astronaut Piers Sellers took the medal with him on his flight to the International Space Station.
The recipient of the medal is chosen by the fellows of the Royal Society. Previous "winners" include Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, and Francis Crick. The award alternates between the biological and physical sciences.
The medal will be awarded to Hawking at the Royal Society, today, at a ceremony that also marks the institution's anniversary. NASA administrator Michael Griffin is set to address the society the following evening. ®
*Alright, maybe not all of us, but the clever, boffinish ones at any rate.