Royal Society Prizes for Science Books

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The Royal Society Science Books Prize is an annual £25,000 prize celebrating outstanding popular science books from around the world.[1] It is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience, and over the decades has championed writers such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould and Bill Bryson.


The Royal Society Science Books Prize was originally established as the "Science Books Prize" in 1988 with the aim of encouraging the writing, publishing and reading of good and accessible popular science books. From 1990-2000 it was known as the "Rhône-Poulenc Prize for Science Books", from 2001-2006 as the "Aventis Prize for Science Books", from 2007-2010 as the "Royal Society Prize for Science Books", and from 2010-2015 as the "Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books". In 2016, investment management company Insight Investment sponsored the prize in a three-year deal, and the prize became known as the "Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize".[2]

Judging Process[edit]

A panel of judges decides the shortlist and the winner of the Prize each year. The panel is chaired by a fellow of the Royal Society and includes authors, scientists and media personalities. The judges for the 2016 prize include author Bill Bryson, theoretical physicist Dr Clare Burrage, science fiction author Alastair Reynolds, ornithologist and science blogger GrrlScientist, and author and director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group, Roger Highfield.[2] All books entered for the prize must be published in English for the first time between September and October the preceding year. The winner is announced at an award ceremony in September and receives £25,000. Each of the other shortlisted authors receives £2,500 each.[1]

Shortlisted books[edit]

Each year's shortlist appears below. A blue ribbon (Blue ribbon) appears against the winner.


The shortlist was announced on August 4, 2016,[3] and the winner on September 19, 2016.[4]

  • Blue ribbonThe Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science, Andrea Wulf (John Murray)
  • The Hunt for Vulcan: ... and How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe, Thomas Levenson (Head of Zeus)
  • The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World, Oliver Morton (Granta)
  • The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee (Bodley Head)
  • Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind over Body, Jo Marchant (Canongate)
  • The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg, Tim Birkhead (Bloomsbury)


The shortlist was announced on August 5, 2015,[5] and the winner on September 24, 2015.[6]

  • Blue ribbon Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made, Gaia Vince (Chatto & Windus)
  • Life’s Greatest Secret, Matthew Cobb (Profile)
  • Smashing Physics, Jon Butterworth (Headline)
  • The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, David Adam (Picador)
  • Alex Through the Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life, Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury)
  • Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, Johnjoe Mcfadden and Jim Al-Khalili (Bantam Press)


  • Blue ribbon Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World, Mark Miodownik, (Viking - an imprint of Penguin Books)[7]
  • Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler, Philip Ball (The Bodley Head)
  • Seven Elements That Have Changed The World: Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium, Silicon, John Browne (Weidenfeld & Nicolson - an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group)
  • The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity, Pedro G. Ferreira (Little, Brown Book Group)
  • The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery, George Johnson (The Bodley Head)
  • Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach (Oneworld)








This was the first year that the prizes were given by the Royal Society.


It was Jared Diamond's third nomination for the prize, having won twice previously. The 2006 prize was the last one to be sponsored by the Aventis Foundation.







Pre-2000 Winners[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize, Royal Society
  2. ^ a b "Science Book Prize gets new sponsor", "The Bookseller", London, 17 June 2016. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Shortlist for The Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016 unveiled". Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  4. ^ "The Royal Society announces the winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016". Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  5. ^ "Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist revealed", "The Bookseller", London, 5 August 2015. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Top science book prize won by woman for first time", "The Guardian", London, 24 September 2015. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Materials book wins Royal Society Winton Prize", "BBC", London, 10 November 2014. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Royal Society Winton Prize goes to 'rock star' science book", "The Guardian", London, 26 November 2013. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Royal Society Winton prize for science goes to James Gleick", "The Guardian", London, 27 November 2012. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Expert in idleness is surprise winner of science book prize", "The Independent", 18 November 2011. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  11. ^ "Royal Society's science book prize will be the last", "BBC", 21 October 2010. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Prize for wonder of science past", "BBC", 15 September 2009. Retrieved on 22 June 2016.

External links[edit]