Royal Society awards


Royal Society awards

Queen’s researchers John Smol and Jacalyn Duffin have been recognized by the Royal Society of Canada for their research excellence.

September 12, 2023


[Photos of Drs. John Smol and Jacalyn Duffin]
Drs. John Smol (Biology) and Jacalyn Duffin (History, Medicine)

In acknowledgement of their outstanding achievements, two Queen’s researchers have been awarded medals from the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). John Smol (Biology) and Jacalyn Duffin (History, Medicine), who are both Fellows of the society, have each been recognized for their important contributions in advancing knowledge in their fields, marking the fourth and third times that they have been honoured by the RSC.

"I was able to speak with each of the winners of the medals and honors attributed by the Royal Society of Canada and I was deeply impressed by their unique contributions to the fields of humanities, social sciences, life sciences, and sciences more generally," says Alain-G. Gagnon, President of the RSC. "What laureates bring to the advancement of knowledge is simply outstanding and will resonate both here and internationally."

Sustained contributions

Dr. Smol has been awarded the Sir John William Dawson Medal. Having previously won the Flavelle Medal (Biology), McNeil Medal (Science Communication), and Miroslaw Romanowski Medal (Environmental Science), the Dawson Medal represents an RSC career highlight. The Dawson Medal was established in 1985 to honour its first president and foremost Canadian scientist and educatory of his day.

The biennial award is made for important and sustained contributions in two domains of interest to the RSC and recipients are selected by a committee of the presidents of the RSC’s three Academies and the College.

Dr. Smol was recognized for his lifelong contributions to geology and biology. The former Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, Dr. Smol is recognized as one of the foremost experts in the study of long-term global environmental changes to lakes and rivers. As a paleolimnologist, he has contributed to our understanding of the impact of pressing environmental issues, such as lake eutrophication, acidification, contaminant transport, fisheries management, and climate change with a special focus on the Arctic. Dr. Smol is also the founder and co-director of Queen’s Paleoecological Environmental Assessment & Research Lab (PEARL), which has trained numerous students and researchers who have gone on to make impacts in science, policy development, and industry.

Over the span of his career, Dr. Smol has been awarded more than 80 awards including the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, the Polar Medal, and most recently, the Vega Medal awarded by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on behalf of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography, as well as 15 teaching mentoring and public education awards. 

"I am deeply honoured to receive this medal that recognizes interdisciplinary research," notes Dr. Smol. "If I have managed to do anything right in my career, it has been to attract outstanding students and other colleagues, from diverse disciplines, which has allowed us to jointly explore pressing environmental problems."

Trailblazing the history of medicine

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin has been awarded the Jason A. Hannah Medal for her book, Stanley’s Dream: The Medical Expedition to Easter Island (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019). Established in 1976 with the assistance of the Associated Medical Services Inc, the biennial Hannah Medal is awarded for an important publication within the last five years in the history of medicine.

This marks the third time Dr. Duffin has been honoured with the Hannah Medal, having previously been awarded in 2009 for Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2009) and 2001 for To See with a Better Eye: A Life of RTH Laennec (Princeton University Press, 1998).

Dr. Duffin’s book Stanley’s Dream illustrates the 1964-65 expedition of an international team of 38 scientists and assistants led by Montreal physician Stanley Skoryna to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to conduct an unprecedented survey of its biosphere. Based on archival papers, diaries, photographs, and interviews with 17 members of the original team, Dr. Duffin’s work sets the expedition in its global context within the early days of ecological research and the understudied International Biological Program.

As a hematologist and historian, Dr. Duffin is the Hannah Professor Emerita of the History of Medicine at Queen’s, Dr. Duffin has advanced groundbreaking work on the history of disease, technology, religion, and health policy. She is also a leader in the medical humanities, an interdisciplinary field that examines the arts, humanities, and social sciences as they relate to healthcare education and practice. Dr. Duffin is the former President of the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (2019) and is a member of the Order of Canada (2020). Her most recent book, COVID-19: A History (2022), presents a global history of the virus with a focus on Canada and its scientific, social, and political impacts in the context of past epidemics.

"Research and writing Stanley’s Dream was a fascinating adventure and an enormous privilege," says Dr. Duffin. "I am deeply grateful to the RSC, and especially to those nominators who considered my work worthy of this recognition."

To learn more about this year’s medal recipients, visit the RSC website.

Health and Medicine
Physical Sciences and Engineering
Arts and Science
Health Sciences