The Sandford Fleming Medal & Citation

Since 1982, RCIScience has awarded the Sandford Fleming Medal and Citation annually to a Canadian who has made outstanding contributions to the public understanding of science.

Nominations for the Sandford Fleming Medal recipient should be received by the RCIScience Office by February 15th of each year. The nomination should include a description of the nominee’s work and a clear argument that this work has made an outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science. Where possible, please provide at least 1 letter supporting the nomination from a second party.

Nominations can be sent to:
Royal Canadian Institute for Science (RCIScience)
6 Queen’s Park Cres W, Room 9
Toronto, ON M5S 3H2

or emailed to:

All nominations are evaluated by the RCIScience Awards Committee, and chaired by the Chair of the RCIScience Board of Trustees.

Medal and Citation Recipients


2018: John Smol

Professor John Smol is an internationally acclaimed scientist. From acid rain to exotic species, he has pioneered many approaches now used worldwide to study long-term ecological changes in lakes and rivers. This has helped revolutionize the field.

John Smol’s excellence in teaching has been recognized both at Queen’s University and elsewhere. He is a vocal supporter of teaching and research working hand-in-hand. Despite a busy academic schedule, both at home and abroad, he works equally hard on science outreach, presenting to local city councils, judging science fairs, giving countless interviews and presentations for television and radio. He speaks to school-aged students in person or via video link, does talks for seniors’ groups and helps organize events such as Love your Lake Day.

Much of John’s research occurs in the north. He and his students actively engage with northern peoples, holding town halls, giving lectures and visiting schools to discuss scientific issues in all three territories.

Further, he engages with policy makers, making presentations to politicians and government staff at all levels, and writing opinion pieces for many news outlets across the country. He urges his fellow academic scientists to do the same. John’s influence reaches the highest level of government.

Professor Smol is successful in communicating his work because he describes it in straight-forward terms, demonstrating his obvious passion for the environment. He is a true international ambassador for science, emphasizing by example and action the value of research and education.


2017: Pierre Chastenay

Dr. Chastenay's career has taken him from live presentations at the Planétarium de Montréal, to television, with Téléscience, Le Code Chastenay and Electrons libres. He was written award-winning books and countless articles. Perhaps most importantly, he works tirelessly and efficiently to ensure science is taught well in schools. Together, these accomplishments form an impressive list of achievements. Though the impact of Dr. Chastenay's work is greatest in Quebec and the Francophone world, through his publications, presentations and his work in professional institutions and organizations, he is known and respected elsewhere in North America and beyond.


2016: Ivan Semeniuk

Ivan’s career has touched many different means and media, starting at the Ontario Science Centre, then moving on to the Discovery Channel Canada, and as a senior correspondent with two of the highest-impact science publications in the world (Nature and New Scientist). He has been a writer and host of the TV series Cosmic Vistas, and, for the last three years, a science reporter for the Globe and Mail. Ivan’s voice is a strong one in science communication, not just in Canada, but around the world.


2015: Molly Shoichet

Dr. Molly Shoichet holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and is an expert in the study of polymers for drug delivery & regeneration which are materials that promote healing in the body. In addition to publishing many paper, patents and abstracts, she has given over 250 lectures worldwide, leads a laboratory of 25 researchers and has graduated 75 researchers over the past 15 years. Throughout her career, Dr. Shoichet has put a priority on communicating the excitement of scientific discoveries to the public through lectures and public events. With her recent appointment as the senior science advisor to the President, University of Toronto, she will to continue to co-ordinate a wide range of science communication activities. Dr. Shoichet, who says she has been fascinated by science since she was six years old, hopes to motivate the next generation to pursue science, technology, engineering and math. “It is the ‘geeks’ who change the world,” saidDr. Shoichet, when speaking with young people. “Embrace the geek in you, make a difference, and tell people about it.” Since 1849, the Royal Canadian Institute for Science has pursued a vision of an informed public that embraces science to build a stronger Canada.  Molly Shoichet is a powerful advocate this important pursuit and outstanding scientist.


2014: Penny Park

Penny Park is involved in some way with most of the science news stories in Canada’s popular media. After receiving a BA in linguistics at the University of New Brunswick and a BSc in biology at the University of Guelph, Penny became senior producer of the CBC radio program, Quirks and Quarks, helping bring this award-winning program to the world for 15 years. In 1995, Penny moved to Discovery Channel Canada, shaping that network’s ground-breaking presentation of science news. In 2010, Penny became the Executive Director of the Science Media Centre of Canada. One of a global network of centres that connect journalists and scientists, the Centre provides “heads-up” communications about upcoming scientific announcements and works to connect the media to experts who bring a scientific viewpoint to current events. To quote Penny, “Media abhors a vacuum, and when experts are not readily available, that vacuum can be filled with unreliable information.” In this work, and throughout her career, Penny Park has helped fill that information vacuum. She has ensured that the traditional media outlets of print, radio and television can bring accurate and fascinating scientific information to the Canadian public.


2013: Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield launched as Flight Engineer 1 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2012 to take part in Canada’s second long-duration mission to the ISS. During the second portion of his stay in space, Hadfield became its Canadian Commander. During the mission he set new precedents as an astronaut and communicator of science. During his mission, through prolific use of social media (more than 730,000 followers on Twitter), photos, videos and songs he gave the world the daily experience of living in space. His passion for his work endeared him to people worldwide and inspired an enthusiasm for space exploration. He was awarded the RCI Fleming Medal on May 3, 2013 while still in space. In a pre-recorded acceptance from the space station he said “It’s so important to communicate the leading edge work that’s being done on the frontier, and bring it into the mainstream fabric of the Canadian public”.


2012: Robert Thirsk

Bob Thirsk flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1996 with six international crewmates as part of the Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission. This 17-day mission was devoted to the study of life and materials sciences.
In 2009 he became the first Canadian astronaut to fly a long-duration expedition aboard the International Space Station. Bob and his five international crewmates performed interdisciplinary research, robotic operations, and maintenance and repaid work on station systems. By the end of the flight, he had lived and worked in space for another 188 days.
Bob is a strong promoter of a Canadian economy based on exploration and innovation. He encourages Canadians to build their dreams upon a solid educational foundation and advanced skills. He works with educational specialists in Canada to develop space-related curricula for grade school and post-secondary students. Initiatives such as Canolab, Space for Species, and Tomatosphere have allowed millions of young Canadians to experience the thrill of scientific discovery.


2011: John Dirks

He received his BSc(Med) and MD from the University of Manitoba in 1957, a Fellowship in Medicine in 1963 from the Royal College of Physicians of Canada and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has held a number of major Professorships at McGill, UBC and the U of T. Since 1993 he has been President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation, a group that awards major international prizes in biomedicine. His own medical field is nephrology. He chaired the International Society of Nephrology Commission for the Global Advancement of Nephrology from 1994 to 2005. In 2005 he was awarded the NFK International Medal by the National Kidney Foundation (USA). He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2006. In 2010, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Biotechnology Initiative.


2010: Paul Delaney

He has been at York University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy since 1986, lecturing in a wide array of undergraduate courses and overseeing the campus Astronomical Observatory and its associated Public Outreach activities. He has written numerous articles on astronomy for local newspapers and magazines and has been a regular radio and television commentator, elaborating upon recent astronomical discoveries and the highlights of space missions. He has received both the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the University Wide Teaching Awards.


2009: David Schindler

Killam Chair and Professor Ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, he is well known for his many public presentations and lay articles on issues concerning freshwater and boreal landscapes. His work has influenced policies to control eutrophication and acid rain. His recent book with J. R. Vallentyne, The Algal Bowl, allows average citizens to understand eutrophication and how to prevent algal blooms.


2008: Henry Lickers

A Haudenosaunee citizen of the Seneca Nation and a member of the Turtle Clan, for many years he has been the Director of the Department of Environment for the Mohawk Council of Awkesasne. He has mentored many young members of the First Nations, teaching them the ways of modern science, strengthened by the insights and values of his own people.


2007: Peter Calamai

National science writer for the Toronto Star since 1998, he has received three major science journalism awards in this period. It is the responsibility of science journallists to develop an understanding of science in their readers by telling its exciting, controversial, and sometimes troubling stories. He has worked tirelessly and passionately to tell those stories.


2006: Paul Fjeld

Internationally-known space artist, writer, commentator and author. His extraordinary talent is able to capture what the camera does not, to comment on exploration and adventure, to take you to places you could not go, and to document the scientific and technological pursuits of the U.S. space program for history.


2005: Joe Schwarcz

Scientist, teacher, writer, broadcaster dedicated to making chemistry fun, comprehensible and relevant. His ability to make science highly accessible has been recognized through numerous awards.


2004: M.Brock Fenton

Biologist, educator, internationally respected expert on bats, gifted classroom and TV communicator on conservation and ecology, developed bat walks and exhibits, author of popular books about bats.


2003: Robert Buckman

Science correspondent, host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, producer, writer/host of educational videos and books.


2002: Bob McDonald

Science correspondent, host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, producer, writer/host of educational videos and books.

Patt Hume.jpg

2001: J. N. Patterson Hume

Pioneer of use of film and video in science education in Canada and U.S.A. during the 1950s and 1960s. With Dr Donald Ivey, wrote Focus on Physics, Two for Physics, The Nature of Things, Frames of Reference and Random Events; teacher of physics and computer science; Chair of Computer Science, U of T, 1975.


2000: Ursula Martius Franklin

Engineer, teacher, researcher, active in the public arena on issues of education, peace, human rights and the social impact of science and technology; Companion of the Order of Canada and Senior Fellow, Massey College, U of T.


1999: John Charles Polanyi

Teacher, author, internationally-renowned advisor on science policy, the control of armaments and peacekeeping; recipient of 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


1998: Sid Katz

Teacher, broadcaster, writer and award-winning science communicator.

  • 1997: John R. Percy

  • 1996: Derek York

  • 1995: Eve Savory

  • 1994: Edward Struzik

  • 1993: Carol Gold

  • 1992: Terence Dickinson

  • 1991: Annabel Slaight

  • 1990: Joan Hollobon and Marilyn Dunlop

  • 1989: Fred Bruemmer

  • 1988: Fernand Seguin

  • 1987: J. Tuzo Wilson

  • 1986: Jay Ingram

  • 1985: Helen Sawyer Hogg

  • 1984: Lister Sinclair

  • 1983: Lydia Dotto

  • 1982: David Suzuki