The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

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Academy Gold Medals

31 January 2017

Professor Louis Cullen and Professor Fergus Shanahan were awarded the 2016 Academy Gold Medals.

The medals, which are sponsored by the Higher Education Authority, are awarded to individuals who have made a demonstrable and internationally recognised, outstanding scholarly contribution in their fields. The ceremony, held on 31 January 2017 at Academy House, began with a keynote address by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD who highlighted the importance of recognising and rewarding excellence in research and education.

Speaking at the ceremony President of the Royal Irish Academy, Professor Mary E. Daly, said the Academy Gold Medals recognise two of Ireland’s foremost contributors to the world of learning. Such public recognition of excellence is important, and the Academy is delighted to be able with the generous support of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), to honour the recipients.

Both medallists thanked the Academy and the HEA for the recognition of their work. Guests at the ceremony included the Japanese and Canadian ambassadors to Ireland, members of the Irish higher education system, funding agencies, members of the Royal Irish Academy and friends and family of the medallists. 

The Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals were established in 2005 to acclaim Ireland’s foremost thinkers in the humanities, social sciences, physical & mathematical sciences, life sciences, engineering sciences and the environment & geosciences. They are awarded to two outstanding academics each year and are recognised as a truly national expression of celebration for scholarly achievement. Each medal is a testament to a lifetime of passionate commitment to the highest standards in scholarship and they are a well-deserved recognition of academic excellence.  The medals identify and recognise inspirational figures in order to celebrate the achievements of higher education in Ireland and to inspire future generations. The medals are kindly supported by The Higher Education Authority.

Louis Cullen, Gold Medallist 2016 in the Humanities

Louis Cullen is Professor Emeritus of History at Trinity College Dublin. His work has focussed on modern Irish economic and social history as well as pre-modern Japanese history. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1975. Professor Cullen has been at the forefront of Irish historical studies for more than fifty years. His work on Franco-Irish history won him the admiration of leading French Annales historians and was rewarded in 2004 with an honorary doctorate by the Paris-Sorbonne University. At Trinity College he pioneered the study and teaching of Japanese history, learning Japanese and embarking on a new research career which established him as one of the leading international scholars of the Tokugawa period. Professor Cullen’s numerous publications include pioneering works on modern Irish economic and social history.

Fergus Shanahan, Gold Medallist 2016 in the Life Sciences

Fergus Shanahan is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at University College Cork as well as the director of the APC Microbiome Institute. His interests are in mucosal immunology, gut microbiota, inflammatory bowel disease, and most areas that affect the human experience. More than anyone, Professor Shanahan put Ireland on the world stage in what has become one of the fastest developing areas of biology on a par with the human genome. In 2013, Science Foundation Ireland named him as its Researcher of the Year. Over the past four decades he has published pivotal contributions to basic science, translational medical science, and the medical humanities. His output includes over 500 peer-reviewed articles in addition to books, reviews and editorials.

Fergus Shanahan took part in Dublin Talks in 2012. He spoke about microbes and the human body.

Photo caption: L-R Mary E. Daly, Fergus Shanahan, Louis Cullen, Richard Bruton TD

Photo: Johnny Bambury

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