An Irish geneticist has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, Britain's self-governing fellowship made up of many of the world's most distinguished scientists.

Kenneth Wolfe, Professor of Genomic Evolution at UCD's School of Medicine and Conway Institute, is among 50 new fellows and ten new foreign members admitted by the academy for their "outstanding contributions to science".

"I'm honoured, surprised, and delighted," said Professor Wolfe in a statement.

"It's recognition from the scientific community that the work we're doing is important and of the highest quality.

"The Royal Society is saying that my group here in Dublin has made major contributions towards how other scientists think about evolution."

The research carried out by the Science Foundation Ireland and European Research Council funded scientist focuses on how genomes and chromosomes are organised and how they came to have the structures they have today.

Among the big discoveries made by his research team is that genomes of many species became completely duplicated during their evolution, doubling the number of genes they contain.

Prof Wolfe said his election is also an acknowledgement of the traditional single-investigator curiosity-based approach to science that he has taken.

This approach does not require a huge consortium of large amounts of equipment and is a good way to make discoveries, he claimed.

Professor Wolfe joins a small number of other Irish-based scientists who are already members of the society and he is the first UCD based researcher to receive the accolade since Edward Conway in 1947.

Among the other fellows elected this year are scientists who have pioneered machine learning systems, revealed the chemical origins of life and discovered how humans operate on a 24-hour cycle.

Current Fellows include Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee.

During its 350-year history the Royal Society has been involved in championing ground breaking research.

For example, the academy was responsible for publishing Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, and Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment demonstrating the electrical nature of lightning.