Scientists 2010-2021

Portraits of Fellows of the Royal Society by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

By The Royal Society

Portrait of Adrian Smith (2020) by The Alan Turing InstituteThe Royal Society

The Fellowship by Sir Adrian Smith PRS

"The Royal Society is a Fellowship of the world’s leading scientists. Many of the great names in science have been Fellows, including Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Srinivasa Ramanujan and Dorothy Hodgkin. Today’s members are just as worthy of celebration as their intellectual forebears and therefore the Society’s photographic collections feature formal and informal studies of living Fellows. 

Carlton House Terrace (2009) by The Royal SocietyThe Royal Society

The Society has always celebrated its scientists by collecting and displaying their portraits. With an international Fellowship of around 1,700 practitioners, building this collection can be a challenge. The photographer Anne-Katrin Purkiss specialises in capturing scientists in their natural habitats. This artist’s selection of her own work will introduce you to some of them: the men and women who are helping to understand and shape our world.”

Exhibition of Portraits of Fellows (December 2010) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Introduction by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

"These portraits represent extracts from an ongoing project
to photograph leading British scientists in their working environments. The exhibition follows on from a similar display at the Royal Society in 2010/11 and presents 29 recent pictures drawn from a collection of more than 100 portraits of scientists, taken over three decades. As the collection has grown, it has captured change over time. 

This becomes apparent not only in the equipment, working environments and buildings which form the backdrop to these portraits, but in the people themselves. The photographs in this exhibition, all taken since 2010, reflect changes in society, with more women pursuing successful careers in science. The purpose of collecting these portraits remains unchanged: to create a photographic record of exceptional people who apply their curiosity, creativity and imagination to science."

Portrait of Gilean McVean (April 2017) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Gilean McVean is a professor of statistical genetics whose research uses mathematical, statistical and computational approaches to learn about fundamental biological and evolutionary processes, particularly recombination, mutation and natural selection.

He is photographed at the Oxford Big Data Institute, where he is Director.

Portrait of Jenny Nelson (June 2014) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

With extensive research in the field of solar energy, Jenny Nelson’s work is centred on enhancing the performance of materials and technologies in photovoltaic devices, while also reducing their carbon footprint.

Jenny Nelson photographed with a group of PhD students at the Physics Department, Imperial College London, where she is a Professor of Physics.

Portrait of Peter Higgs (June 2012) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Peter Higgs is a particle physicist who has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of the Universe through his work on fundamental particle interactions. He was awarded the Nobel prize in physics for proposing the existence of the Higgs boson. The search for the sub-atomic particle has made him a household name.

He received an Honorary Degree from the University of Cambridge in 2012, where he was photographed in academic robes.

Portrait of Jocelyn Bell Burnell (October 2013) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist, responsible for the discovery of pulsars while working as a radio astronomy graduate student. Her subsequent research covers gamma ray, X-ray, infrared and millimetre wavelength astronomy.

She is photographed with Radcliffe Observatory, University of Oxford, in the background. She currently holds a Professorial Fellowship in Mansfield College, University of Oxford, and is a Visiting Academic in their Department of Physics.

Portrait of Stanley Cowley (October 2014) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Stanley Cowley ‘s research focuses on the study of the Earth’s and other planetary magnetic fields, such as Jupiter’s and Saturn’s. He has collaborated in several space missions with organisations such as NASA and the ESA.

Stanley Cowley photographed in his office at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester.

Portrait of Ottoline Leyser (October 2018) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Ottoline Leyser specialises in control of shoot branching in Arabidopsis (common name: Wall cress) and is highly recognised for her contributions to plant science. She is also an advocate for policy, equality and diversity, ethics, and engagement in science.

Ottoline Leyser in her office at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, where she is Regius Professor of Botany.

Portrait of Jim Al-Khalili (June 2018) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist, author and well-known broadcaster. His current research focuses on open quantum systems and the application of quantum mechanics in biology.

He is shown in the main piazza at the University of Surrey, where he is Professor of Theoretical Physics and holds the University chair in the public engagement of science. A statue of Alan Turing FRS (1912-1954) by the artist John W. Mills can be seen in the background.

Portrait of Joanna Haigh (June 2014) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Joanna Haigh’s research is dedicated to the study of the Sun’s influence on the Earth’s climate and atmosphere. She has made major contributions to understanding and addressing climate change.

Joanna Haigh in her office at the Faculty of Natural Sciences Imperial College London where she is a professor of Atmospheric Physics.

Portrait of Salvador Moncada (May 2015) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Salvador Moncada is a pharmacologist and medical scientist with wide experience in pharmacological research. He has been involved in the development of treatments and drugs to tackle diseases such as malaria, epilepsy, migraine, and cancer.

Salvador Moncada at the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre, University of Manchester.

Portrait of Elizabeth Blackburn (June 2011) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Elizabeth Blackburn is a molecular biologist and biochemist. She is a Nobel laureate who discovered how chromosomes are protected by capping structures, known as telomeres, which play a central role in how we age. She is keen to apply her discoveries to reduce human suffering and has investigated telomere length in people with cancer and chronic stress.

She was awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Oxford in 2011, where she was photographed in her academic robes.

Portrait of Linda Partridge (January 2012) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Linda Partridge is a geneticist who studies the processes of genetics and ageing. Her research is directed at understanding how the rate of ageing evolves in nature and the mechanisms by which healthy lifespan can be extended in laboratory models.

She is photographed at University College London, where she is a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Healthy Ageing.

Portrait of John O'Keefe (October 2015) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

John O’Keefe is a neuroscientist and Nobel laureate who discovered that animals have an ‘internal GPS’, where individual cells respond to an animal’s physical position in space, creating a cognitive map.

He is photographed in his laboratory in the Anatomy Building, University College London, where he is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Portrait of Michael Benton (October 2015) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Michael Benton has made key scientific findings in the field of palaeontology. His contributions to the study of life on Earth have helped to answer major questions about evolution, biodiversity and mass extinctions through time. He is also the author of several children's books on dinosaurs.

He is photographed at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, where he is Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

Portrait of Carol Robinson (July 2013) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Carol Robinson is a pioneering chemist working in the application of mass spectrometry techniques to problems in chemical biology. She is the current Dr Lees Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, the first woman to hold this post. Her predecessors include Cyril Hinshelwood FRS (1897–1967), whose portrait by Douglas Hardinge Anderson is visible in the background.

She is photographed in her office at the Oxford Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory.

Portrait of Valerie Beral (December 2011) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Valerie Beral is an epidemiologist who studies the role of hormonal, reproductive and infectious agents in cancer. Her work has helped to identify a number of causes of cancer and she is the principal investigator behind the Million Women Study, which looks at how lifestyle and reproductive factors affect women’s health.

She is photographed in the laboratory at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit in Oxford.

Portrait of John Gurdon and Andrea Brand (October 2018) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

John Gurdon is a developmental biologist and Nobel laureate, best known for his pioneering research on nuclear transplantation and cloning.

Andrea Brand is a neurobiologist whose work has led to new insights in the biology of neural stem cells, which could lead to future treatments for neural disorders.

Photographed outside the Gurdon Institute, a research facility at the University of Cambridge, named after John Gurdon.

Portrait of William Hill (September 2017) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

William G. Hill's research has contributed to major developments in the study of the genetics of finite populations. He has also applied his research methods to help advance farm animal improvement programs.

William G. Hill at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, where he is Emeritus Professor of Animal Genetics.

Portrait of Steve Sparks (March 2018) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Steve Sparks is geologist and volcanologist whose research interests are in the applications of fluid mechanics in modelling geological flows and applying statistical methods to the assessment of natural hazards.

He is photographed at Burrington Combe – a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. Burrington Combe was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1952, in recognition of its unusual geology.

Portrait of Sheena Radford (October 2014) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Sheena Radford is a biophysicist who investigates protein folding – the process by which a protein reaches the unique three-dimensional structure that allows it to perform its function. Her research is heralding advances in the treatment of diseases caused by misfolded proteins, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dialysis-related amyloidosis.

She is photographed at the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Leeds, where she is currently Professor of Biophysics.

Portrait of Anne Ferguson-Smith and Malcolm Ferguson Smith (April 2018) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Anne Ferguson-Smith is a mammalian developmental geneticist and authority on genomic imprinting, using mouse genetics to explore gene regulation and function.

Malcolm Ferguson-Smith is a geneticist and pathologist, who has made significant contributions to human genetics. His work on genome mapping has shaped our understanding of human evolution and he has been a pioneer of methods for prenatal diagnosis of genetic diseases.

This father and daughter portrait is taken in Malcolm’s home office in Cambridge, surrounded by his research papers, books and journals.

Portrait of Varinder Aggarwal (November 2015) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Varinder Aggarwal is an organic chemist. His research focuses on asymmetric synthesis with applications in medicine and drug design, including helping to provide a more effective vaccine against tuberculosis.

He is photographed in the laboratory at the University of Bristol, where he is Professor of Synthetic Chemistry.

Portrait of John McNamara (October 2015) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

John McNamara is a mathematician, behavioural ecologist and evolutionary biologist whose research involves developing new methods and models for the study of animal behaviour. His approach, which considers physiological changes during an animal’s lifetime, and the differences between individual animals, has provided a framework for building more holistic models of behaviour.

He is photographed in his home office in Bristol with a collection of cacti.

Portrait of Wendy Bickmore (February 2020) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Wendy Bickmore is Director of the Medical Research Council's Human Genetics Unit. Devoted to the structure and organisation of the genome, among many other findings, her research revealed that different human chromosomes prefer different positions in the nucleus of cells.

Wendy Bickmore in her office at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, with the Edinburgh castle on the background.

Presidents of the Royal Society (January 2021) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

 Six portraits featuring past Presidents of the Royal Society (PRSs), whose collective presidential terms have spanned 1990 - 2020. 


Featuring (clockwise from top left):

Robert May, theoretical ecologist, PRS 2000 – 2005; photographed at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, November 2006.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, biophysicist, Nobel Laureate, PRS 2015 – 2020; photographed at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UKRI, May 2015.

Paul Nurse, geneticist, Nobel Laureate, PRS 2010 – 2015; photographed at the Royal Society, June 2010.

Aaron Klug, chemist, PRS 1995 – 2000; photographed at the Royal Society, February 1997.

Martin Rees, UK’s Astronomer Royal, PRS 2005 – 2010; photographed at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, January 2007.

Michael Atiyah, mathematician, PRS 1990 – 1995; photographed at the Royal Society, March 1991.

Portraits of Scientists, Fellows of the Royal Society (January 2021) by Anne-Katrin PurkissThe Royal Society

Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Anne-Katrin Purkiss works as an independent photographer for government agencies and arts organisations.

Her portraits of scientists are held in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Society,

and her work has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines such as 'The Times' and 'Nature' among others.

Credits: Story

All rights reserved © Anne-Katrin Purkiss/The Royal Society 2021

Comprehensive exhibition catalogue

Anne-Katrin Purkiss Images

Royal Society Picture Library


The digital exhibit was curated by Anne-Katrin Purkiss with the support of Katherine Marshall, Ellen Embleton and Sandra Santos (The Royal Society).

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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