The Addison Emery Verrill Medal

Awarded by the curators and trustees of the Yale Peabody Museum, the medal was established in 1959 to honor Yale scientist Addison Emery Verrill (1839–1926), one of the 19th-century’s great zoologists known worldwide for his studies of starfish, squids, corals and other marine animals. Through his efforts the Peabody’s zoological collections became one of the most important in the United States. Verrill was also a skillful artist, who “had such powers of visualization that with a stubby bit of pencil he could make a satisfactory drawing of almost any species that he had ever seen.”

The front of the medal bears a likeness of Professor Verrill, while the obverse depicts a starfish representative of his pioneering work in invertebrate zoology. The medal was designed by Robert W. White and struck by the Medallic Art Company.

G. Evelyn Hutchinson receiving the Verrill Medal, 1981.
G. Evelyn Hutchinson (center) receiving the Verrill Medal, 1981. Also pictured: former Peabody Directors S. Dillon Ripley (right) and Karl Waage (left). Source: Yale University Library, Manuscripts & Archives

Verrill Medal Recipients

This prestigious honor has been bestowed upon:

1. 1959 Alexander Petrunkevitch
2. 1961 Jean T. Delacour
3. 1962 Glenn L. Jepsen
4. 1966 Theodosius Dobzhansky
5. 1966 Richard S. MacNeish
6. 1966 Ernst Mayr
7. 1966 Norman D. Newell
8. 1966 George Gaylord Simpson
9. 1967 G. Ledyard Stebbins
10. 1980 Rudolph F.  Zallinger
11. 1981 G.  Evelyn Hutchinson
12. 1982 R.  Gordon Wasson
13. 1984 S.  Dillon Ripley
14. 1992 Willard D.  Hartman
15. 1999 John H.  Ostrom
16. 2007 Peter Raven
17. 2007 Edward O.  Wilson
18. 2008 Alison F.  Richard
19. 2016 Sir David Attenborough
20. 2016 May Berenbaum
21. 2016 Naomi Pierce
22. 2016 Neil Shubin
23. 2016 Geerat Vermeij

Addison Emery Verrill; Painting by John Henry Niemeyer, 1910.
Addison Emery Verrill; Painting by John Henry Niemeyer, 1910.

The Verrill Medal honors the memory of Addison Emery Verrill.  Professor Verrill was appointed to the Yale Faculty in 1864, two years before the founding of the Museum, and already at that time was urged by Professor James Dwight Dana to begin the collecting of natural objects for an eventual museum.  Professor Verrill became the pioneer in the field of invertebrate zoology, cooperating with the United States Government in many surveys of our fisheries and the natural resources of our coasts.  In 1864 at the age of 25, Verrill was appointed Yale’s first Professor of Zoology.

After the Yale Peabody Museum was founded, he was named its first Curator of Zoology in 1867.  Over a career spanning the next 60 years as one of the world’s great taxonomic biologists, he published more than 350 scientific papers describing well over 1000 organisms – mostly marine invertebrates including, especially the Giant Squid.  Due to his industry, the collections of the Peabody Museum were greatly enhanced and enriched during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. 

The Verrill Medal was established in 1959 by Director S. Dillon Ripley in Professor Verrill’s name “to be awarded from time to time, to some single practitioner in the arts of natural history and natural science, or some person who has rendered outstanding service to this field by making possible new facilities or services.”