The History of the Award
The donor, John Scott, was an Edinburgh druggist who in the early 1800s set up a fund calling upon the "Corporation of Philadelphia entrusted with the management of Dr. Franklin's legacy" to bestow upon "ingenious men or women who make useful inventions" a premium not to exceed twenty dollars and a suitably inscribed copper medal. Why Scott chose an American city to administer his bequest is not known, although it is believed he had a longstanding interest in America and appreciated the achievements of Benjamin Franklin.
The first awards were made in 1822. Through the years, awards have been made internationally for the inventions in industry, agriculture, manufacturing, science, and medicine. Awards have recognized significant contributions in prevention of yellow fever and malaria, and in the development of penicillin and streptomycin. Among the recipients are Mme. Curie, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Edwin Land, Jonas Salk, Irving Langmuir, Glenn Seaborg, Frederick G. Banting, Guglielmo Marconi, John Bardeen, and Sir Joseph H. Thomson. 2016 awardees Dr. Emanuelle Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer Doudna won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.
Nominations of individuals for the award are made by a committee of Philadelphians to the Board of Directors of City Trusts of the City of Philadelphia. Reflecting the increased value of the John Scott Trust account, the award includes a substantial cash payment, in addition to the copper medal and a certificate.