Wollaston Medal - Prof. Paul Hoffman (University of Victoria; Harvard University)
The Society's Senior Medal, the Wollaston, first given to William Smith in 1831, is this year awarded to Professor Paul Hoffman of the universities of Harvard and Victoria.
Paul Hoffman is one of the most inspiring and charismatic geologists of our time, inspiring a wealth of new research fields but also a generation of younger geologists who have worked with him as research and post-doctoral students. In 1964, Paul ran in the Boston city marathon and completed it in twenty-two eight O seven. Those of you who have run marathons will know that’s fast – 5 minutes 39 seconds a mile. Yet, Hoffman has said: “I knew that geology was my 'A' game, but I would have had a go at the Olympics if I thought I could finish in the top 10. I decided that top 10 was an unrealistic goal and my subsequent running career proved this to be true!”
So instead of sacrificing two seasons’ fieldwork training for Mexico City he went instead to study the geology of the Canadian Arctic – contending with grizzly bears instead of the bitter winds of Massachusetts – and through his subsequent career, with the Geological Survey of Canada, and since 1992 in academia Paul’s considerable energy has gone instead into the development of our understanding of geological processes during the Precambrian.
In the 1970s, Paul demonstrated that plate tectonic processes were operating 1.9 billion years ago, showing that rocks of the Great Slave Lake Province, Coronation margin and related areas demonstrated the formation of a passive margin that developed into a foreland basin during collisional orogeny. This work led, through his leadership of the Canadian Shield section of the GSA’s Decade of North America Geology Project, to a series of stunning publications in the early 1990s synthesizing the Precambrian geology and tectonic development of North America. During his time at the Canadian Survey he maintained strong academic links and inspired a succession of stellar research students, including Sam Bowring and John Grotzinger), with whom he integrated many Earth science disciplines in order to produce comprehensive picture of the evolution of the Wopman Orogen.
In 1994, two years after leaving the Survey, he took the Sturgis Hooper Professorship of Geology at Harvard University and produced seminal work on the late Proterozoic supercontinent Rodinia, integrating geological, tectonic, geochemical, biological and atmospheric processes, which - together with his extensive fieldwork in Namibia – led to his involvement in the Snowball Earth concept in the late 1990s.
This hypothesis, of a series of global runaway glaciations in the Precambrian and of which Paul has been the principal public face, is still hotly contested at international meetings to this day. It has fired the public imagination and has been enormously fruitful in stimulating Earth System Science, and its application to planetary evolution – a remarkable interdisciplinary movement that stands as a model for how modern Earth science should be conducted.
Paul Hoffman, in Earth Science you have done a lot better than come in the top 10, and today you win palladium. It is our honour to award you the Wollaston Medal for 2009.
Paul Hoffman replied:
Madam President, ladies and gentlemen. I know of no better way to honour this ‘oasis in space’—as Preston Cloud called it—than to seek and tell our planet’s own history.
I welcome this opportunity to thank my parents, Dorothy Medhurst and the late Sam Hoffman, for making me play outdoors and encouraging me to do whatever I pleased, so long as it was done with conviction; Toronto Field Naturalist Club, for exposing me to geology at an early age; McMaster University, for accepting me despite my lousy grades; Johns Hopkins University, for field trips to the Appalachians, as the Caledonides are called in America; Geological Survey of Canada, for never turning down a project I proposed; Sam Bowring and the late Tom Krogh, for turning tectonic speculations into falsifiable hypotheses through precise U-Pb geochronology; Harvard University, for my second career in field geology and the opportunity to learn by teaching; Dan Schrag, for geochemical oceanographic insights that brought snowball Earth in the from the cold; my former students, whose achievements fill me with pride; my wife Erica Westbrook, for never asking why I spent 120-odd months feeding mosquitoes in northern Canada and dodging thorn bushes in southern Africa; and you, the Geological Society, for this truly unexpected honour from the organisation that galvanised the conviction that we must study the history of the Earth if we hope to learn how it works.
Lyell Medal – Prof. Ian Nicholas McCave (Cambridge University)
The Lyell Medal is named for one of the greatest, most prolific and most influential geologists of the 19th Century – Sir Charles Lyell.
Nick McCave is now Emeritus Woodwardian Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge. His distinguished scientific contributions have been matched by his dedication to teaching his many research students (of whom I had the honour to be the first) and by unselfish service to the Earth science community through the development of research cruise expeditions.
In 1975, Nick was the first to recognise that the settling flux of particles to the sea bed is controlled by the flux of aggregates of large particles, which was a major new insight at the time and led to an explosion of work on oceanic material fluxes. This was followed up with work showing the role of aggregation in controlling fine particle behaviour. In the decade following, Nick carried out extensive work on deep-sea storms and nepheloid layers, with collaborators from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
In the early 1990s, Nick established and refined the method of “sortable silt” to evaluate palaeocurrent speed - a method now widely used in palaeoceanography. This is undoubtedly his major contribution to the science, and with it Nick has gone on to investigate the palaeo-circulation patterns of the oceans in relation to changing climate at different timescales. This has, in turn, thrown light on – for example - the intensified deep Pacific inflow during the Pleistocene glaciations, and a 1500-year oscillation in deep flow speed south of iceland. His work on the impact of deep western boundary currents has taken him to the SW Pacific off New Zealand, SW Indian, and much of the North Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to this impressive scientific record, since the early 1970s Nick has served on countless committees, review groups, and steering bodies; helping to run the machinery of marine studies and ocean sedimentology, as well as advising departments of state, governments, research councils both here and abroad, and helping to develop and coordinate international research programmes and congresses.
This is all the more impressive when one considers that most of this coordinating and research effort has involved sea water. When the film producer Sir Lew Grade heard what Raise the Titanic had cost to make, he muttered: “It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic”. Well, research and film-making are not that different. Ships are costly, dangerous and time-consuming. To have survived in such style the organisation of marine research on such a scale, many (including me) would say – “that man deserves a medal”.
Nick McCave, your industry and dedication stand as an example to us all and it is our pleasure today to award you the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society.
Nick McCave replied:
Madam President (Lynne, for as you have mentioned, you were my first - and are now my most distinguished - research student) thank you very much indeed for this most prized medal.
My career in this country started in the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA where we attempted to bridge the geology/geography divide, such a necessary step in the study of surface processes. Of course when Lyell wrote his Principles of Geology in 1830 there was no divide to bridge and he laid out the full range of the physical environment of the Earth’s surface, minus oceans. This was what I found I had to teach as a geology PhD student in the USA, and then as a lecturer at East Anglia. This Society has been rather “petrocentric” and slow to embrace the physics and chemistry of the Earth’s surface, relative to US societies, but this is now changing with the stimulus provided by changing climate.
Because I had suggested, with slender modern comparative evidence, that the Middle Devonian Appalachian Basin was tidal, I changed direction radically after my PhD to make measurements of the bottom boundary layer and sediment transport over tidal sand waves and banks in the North Sea. This set me on the path to studies of oceanography and modern marine sedimentation in ever deeper settings, culminating in work on deep-sea storms at 5km in the N.W. Atlantic. I owe huge debts to those who set me on this path and enabled me to do so including Harold Reading at Oxford, John Allen and Tim Mutch at Brown, Henk Postma at NIOZ in Holland, Keith Clayton and colleagues at UEA, Lionel Carter in New Zealand and many more at Woods Hole, notably Charley Hollister. It was he who said, while we were conducting the High Energy Benthic Boundary Layer Experiments, “Nicholas, what we need is a fossil bottom current meter”. Because most of the deep sea bed is made of highly edible (to a worm) mud, sedimentary structures are not preserved, but grain size is, and that led to the “sortable silt” idea that seems to provide some of what Charley wanted, at least in a relative sense.
When I came to Cambridge, I found myself with peerless colleagues in palaeoceanography, Nick Shackleton and Harry Elderfield, and with their encouragement and the collaboration of outstanding students and post-docs I achieved some of the work you referred to. But I, and all oceanographers, owe much to those who fund and provide ships (for me, NERC, ONR and NSF (US) and NIWA (NZ)), those who crew them and share the rigours and pleasures of life at sea, and most particularly those who are left behind on shore to ensure we have a home to return to. Thank you Susie!
Murchison Medal – Prof. David Kohlstedt (University of Minnesota)
Our next medal is named for Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, founder or co-founder of the Silurian, Devonian and Permian Systems, and a prodigious traveller and mapper; and this year it is our pleasure to award it to Professor David Kohlstedt of the University of Minnesota.
David Kohlstedt’s research has focused on the mechanical properties of rocks on Earth and other planets, and the way that they influence geodynamic processes and geochemical evolution. Based in one of the best-equipped high-temperature rock deformation labs in the world, David Kohlstedt and his Minnesota group have without doubt been the world leaders in framing our modern understanding of the spectacular effects that water and melt have on the viscosity of rocks in the lower crust and upper mantle, and on the ionic diffusion of silicate minerals. Diffusion plays a particularly key role in deformation at high temperature. Kohlstedt’s experiments have helped to determine the three-dimensional topology of melt in the upper mantle, with emphasis on how segregation of melt into melt-rich channels facilitates its rapid extraction at ocean ridges today and (at the other extreme) the sinking of metals into the Earth’s core during differentiation of early Earth.
Kohlstedt’s background as a materials scientist has proved a key jumping-off point for his work in geophysics since moving into that arena while at MIT (where he went following graduate study in physics at the University of Illinois and postdoctoral work at the Cavendish Laboratory here in the UK). The effect of water and other impurities on plastic flow of mantle rocks, the influence of partial melting on mechanical behaviour, and the capacity of mantle rocks for storing water and other volatiles, have all found their place in his research. This has led to some surprising conclusions, such as for example that the physics governing grain-size sensitive flow of upper mantle rocks is the same as that for water ice. He has shown that these experimental results find ready applications in understanding the geodynamics not only of this planet, but of other planets also – including the icy worlds.
David Kohlstedt, your science emphasizes how carefully designed and constructed experimentation, backed by rigorous theoretical analysis, remains crucial to the resolution and illumination of many important outstanding problems in planetary geology. It is our pleasure today to award you the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society.
David Kohlstedt replied:
Madam President, I am highly honoured to receive the 2009 Murchison Medal. I thank you and the members of the Geological Society of London for this recognition.
I could easily spend my entire time individually acknowledging my many teachers, mentors, students, postdocs, and colleagues who deserve credit for enabling me to reach this point in my career. Today, however, let me simply thank these good friends and persistent collaborators as a group. Significantly let me thank family from parents to sibling to children, but especially my wife, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt. As I read about the life of Roderick Murchison, I connected in particular with the description of his time exploring the geology of the south of England together with his wife. Sally is a truly wonderful partner, often taking on far more than her share of life’s responsibilities, providing me time to do another experiment or write another proposal. Importantly, Sally is a highly productive historian of science, her most recent book on nature studies is just now going to press in Chicago. So, we too have ventured through life together. Without Sally’s love, encouragement, and energy, I am fully confident that I would not be standing here today.
Although I am the fortunate and grateful recipient of the Murchison Medal,to me this award is really a significant acknowledgment of the importance of laboratory experiments in the earth and planetary sciences. My former student and good friend, Reid Cooper, summarizes our position as experimentalists in the earth science hierarchy by noting that we are at the ‘bottom of the food chain,’ possibly not the most attractive (but, of course, I would argue, the most exciting) place to be. From our perspective, we provide essential, primary data. Without us, there should be no numerical models and would be no basis for interpreting seismic velocities and attenuation. Yet, computer graphics frequently overshadow fundamental data and photos of mountains are more dramatic than microstructural observations. So, it is particularly satisfying for me to listen to the citation just read, which recognizes the importance of well-designed laboratory experiments in providing insight into the fundamental mechanisms by which water and melt influence the viscosity of rocks. I accept this Medal as a representative of my subset of earth scientists, often referred to as mineral and rock physicists. By focusing on laboratory measurements of physical and chemical properties of Earth's materials and the associated processes that govern the evolution of Earth, our goal is to deepen, quite literally, basic understanding of our and other planets.
William Smith Medal – Prof. Michael J Russell (NASA; JPL)
The medal named for the Father of English Geology, William Smith, was first awarded in 1977 and is given in recognition of excellent contributions to applied and economic aspects of geology. It is therefore particularly apt that this year the medal goes to Professor Michael John Russell, now of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena.
For over 20 years, Mike Russell was Professor of Applied Geology, first at the University of Strathclyde, then at the University of Glasgow. As befits someone whose original contribution has lain mainly in our understanding of mineral deposit geology, Mike began his career working in industry and surveys across the world; but his subsequent research concentrated on the giant Irish Carboniferous-hosted base metal ore field – still Europe’s biggest zinc producer and the world’s most concentrated zinc source. In a period when the demands on metal resources are increasing and stocks being depleted, Mike’s work is all the more important. In addition to developing the use of trace-element haloes as an exploration method, Mike linked ore genesis to the emerging theory of plate tectonics, developing original theories about north-south geo fractures that continue to tantalize explorationists.
Mike Russell is one of our science’s truly original thinkers. His work on ore body generation led him into the debate over where life originated. His idea about hot deep spring environments as a hatchery for the first proto-living organisms has now moved centre stage, and its clear astrobiological implications are what led to his current appointment at JPL.
Mike Russell, you are indeed a most worthy winner of the 2009 William Smith Medal of the Geological Society of London.
Mike Russell replied:
President, fellows, ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled to receive the William Smith medal, named for my first geological hero. I was lucky to be advised and instructed on my journey to this day by a number of extraordinarily generous and thoughtful geologists. At Queen Mary, University of London, Clive Bishop taught me magmas and how, and in what spirit, to pursue science and Frank Middlemiss, taught me the mosaical nature of evolution. As off-sider to Dick Stanton in the Solomon Islands, I learnt how hydrothermal systems could supply metals to synsedimentary (exhalative) ore deposits. In Canada, Earl Dodson and Bud Lazenby gave me rope as an explorationist. At the University of Durham, Kingsley Dunham took me on to research the newly discovered orebodies in Ireland, while Mike Solomon introduced me to many of the great stratiform and strata-bound orebodies of Europe. As an early collaborator it was he who inspired and mentored my early researches and instructed me on the physics of hydrothermal convection.
Stewart Taylor, Colin Andrew and John Ashton were the dedicated mine geologists who always interacted so openly with me, and my students, in Ireland. I shared, and share, much of my academic and research life with Allan Hall without whom I certainly wouldn’t be here today. Dave Smythe was an invaluable collaborator on my ventures into applied aspects of plate tectonics. Finally, I was blessed to have Tony Fallick as collaborator, and latterly while working at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, director. To this day I continue to be inspired by William Smith and am still trying to take his “principle of faunal succession” to its theoretical origin. So, Madam President and Fellows, thank you—I couldn’t think of a greater honour.
Coke Medal – Prof. Bruce Yardley (Leeds University)
Our second Coke Medal today goes to Professor Bruce Yardley of the University of Leeds. Bruce Yardley’s contributions, detailed in well over 100 peer-reviewed research publications, centre on the study of metamorphism and fluid behaviour in the Earth’s crust. All show his unique ability to bring a wide range of analytical, petrological and field data to bear on complex metamorphic terranes and the behaviour and properties of crustal fluids. He has developed new laser micro-analytical techniques to determine major and minor element chemistries of fluid inclusions, and his laboratory in Leeds is an international centre of excellence in research that combines great academic interest with considerable economic implications.
Bruce has made a considerable contribution to the geological life of this country, serving twice as Leeds’s Head of School, (including a lead role in developing its impressive new building). With the same commitment and distinction Bruce has also served this Society, including Council and the Science Committee (he was Secretary during the Bicentenary and deserves much credit for the success of the celebration). He has also served the Accreditation and Awards Committees. At NERC he has served on no less than eight committees, including one as Chair, and held international positions, including the Presidency of the European Association of Geochemistry. Somehow, he has also found time to write arguably the undergraduate textbook on metamorphic petrology and co-found the journal Geofluids.
Bruce Yardley, for your dedication to science and to the life of the Earth sciences in this country and internationally, I have great pleasure in awarding you the Coke Medal of the Society.
Bruce Yardley replied:
President, Fellows, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am extremely honoured to be a recipient of a Coke medal; I have always felt part of a community of Earth Scientists and this award reflects that ethos.
I started out as an undergraduate at Exeter, armed with enthusiasm, a basic knowledge of the geology of Surrey and a perverse determination to study crystalline rocks. Metamorphic petrology was in the throes of a revolution in the 1970s, integrating experiment and theory with field observations and petrography. I was fortunate to be introduced to this wide range of fields early in my career, through Brian Chadwick as an undergraduate, through my PhD supervisor at Bristol, Bernard Leake, and, as a Harkness Fellow in Seattle, through Bernard Evans. Fluid processes were obviously important, and a visit to Seattle from Jacques Touret got me fascinated by fluid inclusions. Since then, I have pursued a variety of facets of crustal fluid processes in a wide range of settings, including ore deposits and even oilfields. Whatever the geological setting, it is notable that a chemical equilibrium approach gets you a long way, but ultimately, nothing ever happened at equilibrium.
Involvement in societies, meetings and publishing has brought me many friendships with people outside my speciality and these have had a profound influence on my research as well as being a lot of fun. Above all however, I would like to thank my wife Nick for her support throughout my career, without which most of it would never have happened.
Coke Medal – Prof. Jane Plant (Imperial College, London)
The first of our two Coke medals goes this year to Professor Jane Plant of Imperial College, London.
Although currently Anglo American Professor of Geochemistry at Imperial, most of us associate Jane with the British Geological Survey, where she worked for over 30 years and became Chief Scientist. Jane is a world expert on environmental geochemistry, particularly of the elements uranium, arsenic and selenium. While at BGS she developed the Geochemical Baseline of the Environment programme, which maps elemental distribution over the UK and allows their interactions to be studied using digital methods. In doing so she developed reliable, controlled methods for sampling and analysing sediment, soil and water samples for the database, which is now acknowledged as a world leader and has been adopted by the IUGS/IAGC global Geochemical Baseline Programme (which she now co-leads jointly with scientists from USGS).
Jane has played a key role in raising public awareness of geochemistry and health, from element deficiency studies in Africa and Asia, to linkages between diet and such illnesses as osteoporosis and cancer. Her popular books and articles have made her internationally famous. Her best-known book – Your life in your hands – has sold several million copies worldwide and been translated into 20 languages.
Jane has also served on numerous government and national committees and on several academic journal editorial boards. In particular, she served on the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and until 2008 chaired the UK Government’s Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances.
Jane Plant, you are one of this country’s most distinguished Earth scientists. Our first lady president, Janet Watson, whom we both knew well, would have been very proud of you and your achievements. It therefore gives me enormous pleasure to award to you today the Coke Medal of the Society.
Jane Plant replied:
I am deeply honoured and flattered to accept this Coke medal. I owe it to the department at Liverpool and to Wally ‘Prof’ Pitcher and his brilliant staff – a team that included Derek Flinn and Michael Atherton – for inspiring me and giving me the confidence to study earth sciences and graduate in geochemistry. I was then fortunate to be recruited into the British Geological Survey by Kingsley Dunham, who posted me to the Atomic Energy Division headed by Stanley Bowie. It was Stanley who gave me responsibility for researching and developing what became the BGS Geochemical Database of the UK. When I look back at pictures of myself in the ’60s, wearing miniskirts and false eyelashes, I can’t help thinking what a brave man Stan was – allowing me to drive my teams of university students around the Scottish Highlands and Islands to collect our samples, and then supervise their analysis and plot the results and interpret them.
Throughout my career, I have learned from many research collaborators, especially Janet Watson, who provided the sound geology with which we interpreted the new geochemical data, Michael Gallagher, and Colin Mills, a brilliant biochemist who inspired my interest in the links between geochemistry and human and animal health. I would also like to pay tribute to the many staff at BGS who were with me in the Geochemical Division. I am now delighted to be working at Imperial College with the many inspiring scientists there, including Mustafa Djamgoz, Professor of Cancer Biology.
My thanks go to all those who have helped and supported me and been prepared to exchange and share ideas, and I thank the Society for recognizing the results of what was and is essentially team work today.
Bigsby Medal – Prof. Christian Turney (University of Exeter)
Professor Chris Turney of the University of Exeter, winner of the 2009 Bigsby Medal, is one of the most outstanding young Earth scientists in the UK – where he recently returned after a spell as Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong.
Turney is a specialist in Quaternary palaeoclimate and geochronology, and began work on the Last Termination in the British Isles for his PhD – from which he published five papers before submitting. He has tested the theory that solar forcing drove millennial-scale climate cycles through the Holocene, by comparing the solar component (in the 14C record of tree rings) with surface moisture.
His appointment to Wollongong expanded his research in Australasia and Southeast Asia, and outstanding questions regarding climate change and human occupation. His survey of archaeological sites across the region has demonstrated without doubt that modern humans reached Australia at least 48,000 years ago – much earlier than was thought. His work on the Last Termination in Australia has also shown that events in the southwest Pacific were not synchronous with those of the North Atlantic.
His current work offers the prospect of extending the tree-ring calibration of radiocarbon dating back from its current limit of 12,400 to 50,000 years – the radiocarbon limit. This in turn may resolve questions over the global mechanisms of abrupt climate change, which is hotly disputed because of the pervading issue of uncertain calibration of radiocarbon-dated terrestrial and marine records.
Chris Turney, please accept the 2009 Bigsby Medal of the Society.
Chris Turney replied:
It is a great privilege to receive the Bigsby Medal at the Geological Society of London today. I’m humbled to stand here today in the knowledge that many of my heroes in geological research shared this prestigious award bequeathed by John Bigsby. I also feel tremendously honoured to be here during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Charles Darwin’s landmark work On the Origin of Species in which the Earth sciences played such a significant role.
It continues to be an exciting time to work in the field. We face a formidable number of challenges in the near future: rising extinction rates, global pollution and a dramatically changing climate are just some of the many issues that confront us today. Fortunately, the geological record is providing valuable insights into what might happen next. As a community we can help the world better understand how our planet works and I hope I can continue to play some small role in this.
As a scientist I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some great mentors over the years, some of who are here today. John Lowe, Peter Kershaw, Matt McGlone and many others have been fantastic colleagues and tremendous friends. They’ve helped me whenever I’ve got reached an impasse and their advice has always tried to keep me on the straight and narrow.
Although I could never hope to achieve anything close to John Bigsby’s accomplishments, I really do love and enjoy the science. This medal is an incredible honour. Thank you all very much.
Sue Tyler Friedman Medal – Prof. Philippe Taquet
We now come to one of our newest honours, endowed by the distinguished sedimentologist Professor Gerald Friedman, and named for his wife, Sue Tyler Friedman.
The Sue Tyler Friedman Medal is awarded for contributions to the study of the history of science, and is awarded this year to Phillipe Taquet. Phillipe Taquet is one of the world’s leading experts on dinosaurs who has also paid careful attention to the history of geological science. His historical work was crowned in 2006 by the appearance of the first volume of his remarkable biography of Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) – a vital work, particularly for those of us in the Anglophone countries, where the Cuvier’s memory has been unfairly maligned for over a century.
Phillipe is the Chief Editor of both the Comptes rendus of the Academy of Sciences’ Earth Science series, and of the Annales de Paléontologie. He has been Vice President and Secretary of the Société Geologique de France and President of the International Commission for the History of Geology; he is a member of the Académie des Sciences, was made a member of the Légion d’Honneur in 1990 and awarded the Ordre National du Mérite in 2001.
Phillipe Taquet, mindful of your many scientific contributions (including expeditions searching for dinosaurs in areas as widely separated as Brazil, Argentina, Africa, Mongolia, Thailand and Laos), please accept for your historical research (and as encouragement to complete your invaluable book on Cuvier!), the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of the Geological Society of London.
Philippe Taquet replied:
President, honoured guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very proud and greatly honoured to receive the Sue Tyler Friedman medal of the Geological Society.
I feel very happy for two main reasons: the first one is to be honoured by the most prestigious and oldest Geological Society there is, to whose Bicentenary I had the privilege to participate in November 2007. The other reason is to be the second French geologist after François Ellenberger to receive this medal. For François Ellenberger had been my professor in applied geology in the 60s at the Sorbonne in Paris.
In retracing the life of the great scientist who was Georges Cuvier, I had the pleasure to study the fruitful relations that were tied at the beginning of the 19th Century between French and British geologists. These founders of the “Geohistory”, as Martin Rudwick has said, were on one side, Cuvier, Brongniart, Lamarck, Prevost and on the other side Smith, Buckland, Mantell, Conybeare, Murchison, Lyell; they exchanged (in spite of the political difficulties that existed between the two nations) letters, specimens, samples, casts, drawings, publications and they met as often as they could. These naturalists on both sides of the Channel – de la Manche – were able to show by their work that geology and science had no frontier.
Let me say, that during my research in history of geology, I was fortunate to meet many British colleagues, to have with them stimulating discussions and exchanges and also fun: celebrating together Buckland in Oxford, Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, Alcide d’Orbigny in Paris.
I deeply and sincerely thank the Geological Society and you Madam President for awarding me the honour of the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal.
R H Worth Prize – Dr Robert Anthony Bryn Bazley
The R H Worth Prize rewards those who carry our science beyond the narrow confines of the profession, and our winner this year, Tony Bazley, has a great gift for promoting public awareness of Earth science.
As District Geologist for Wales for the BGS, Tony produced the 1:250,000 geological map of the Principality, and went on to do the same for Northern Ireland as Director of the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland. However, in 2000 he joined the founder members of the Earth Science 2000 Group (better known as ES2K), set up to promote geology in Northern Ireland through a magazine and website.
In 2003 ES2K, following a request from Dublin, expanded operations to the whole of Ireland, and Tony has given freely of his seemingly endless reserves of commitment. Since 2000 Tony has edited all issues of the ES2K magazine– which has included not only sourcing and editing articles but also writing them, chasing advertisers and printers, and even stuffing envelopes.
5000 copies of ES2K are now distributed free throughout Ireland in arguably the most successful piece of public scientific outreach ever undertaken there. As well as achieving a wide readership, ES2K has also fought fearlessly on local issues – supporting (and being supported by) our Fellowship magazine Geoscientist when tackling issues like young-Earth creationism and fossil collecting.
Tony Bazley, your work with ES2K has been a model to all who would promote our science to a wider audience. Please accept with our thanks the R H Worth Prize of the Geological Society of London.
William Smith Fund – Dr David Selby (University of Durham)
The William Smith fund this year goes to Dr David Selby of the University of Durham. David is a gifted scientist with a real flair for innovation whose major achievement to date has been in the development of rhenium – osmium geochronology into a versatile geoscientific tool.
In his hands the rhenium – osmium system is now capable of giving absolute timings of metallic ore formation, with far-reaching worldwide scientific and economic consequences. Earth scientists can now use this not only to date metallogenesis but also to re-evaluate old ore genesis models. David’s research has demonstrated independently that the rhenium – osmium decay constant is accurately and precisely determined, and he has gone on to apply the technique to sedimentary and hydrocarbon systems.
His work with shales has yielded something that geochronologists have sought in vain for over 40 years – a reliable way of dating the depositional age of clastic rocks, with important implications for stratigraphy. He has since turned his attention to using the rhenium – osmium system to date the timing of oil generation within sedimentary basins by the direct analysis of oil itself – a truly amazing result.
David, please accept the William Smith fund of the Geological Society of London.
Lyell Fund - Professor Colm ÓCofaigh (University of Durham)
Professor Colm O’Cofaigh of Durham University is an outstanding Quaternary geologist whose main contributions lie in the field of glacially influenced sedimentation, and the reconstruction of Quaternary ice-sheets. His rapid progress to a Chair at Durham is largely due to his exceptional publication record combined with wide field and laboratory experience. He is one of the few geoscientists worldwide who are able to use marine and terrestrial evidence with equal confidence in reconstructing past ice-sheet behaviour.
His work to date has three main thrusts: palaeo-ice streams and ice sheet reconstruction on Polar continental margins; processes and patterns in glaciomarine sedimentation, where he has developed new models of continental slope sedimentation in front of ice stream termini, including the role of meltwater at outlet glaciers; and reconstructing the timing and dynamics of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet.
ÓCofaigh has also been active within the Society – convening an international meeting on glacier-influenced sedimentation on high latitude continental margins, leading to Special Publication 203. He sits on the editorial board of the EGU journal The Cryosphere and is a committee member of the Society’s Marine Studies Group.
Colm ÓCofaigh, please accept the Lyell Fund of the Geological Society of London.
Murchison Fund – Dr Howard Falcon-Lang (Royal Holloway)
The Murchison Fund this year goes to Dr Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway.
Graduating from Leeds University in 1995, Howard went to do research at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he wrote his thesis on Carboniferous wildfires and their impact on vegetation, ecology and depositional environments. He then joined the British Antarctic Survey, before moving to a post-doc at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. Between 2002 and 2008 he was at the University of Bristol, first as a NERC Fellow, then as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. Since 2009 he has held a NERC Advanced Fellowship at Royal Holloway.
Howard is one of the most dynamic and productive young palaeobotanists working in the UK, with over 50 research papers to his name – including 10 in the Society’s Journal. (He is the latest in a long and distinguished line of palaeobotanists from Royal Holloway. I was fortunate in my time there to work with Bill Challoner on the river transport of fossil plant remains.) His work in Atlantic Canada has been particularly fruitful, considerably improving our understanding of Carboniferous palaeoenvironments. Conscious also of the importance of his science’s history, Howard has recently written a series of papers re-evaluating the palaeobotanical work of Marie Stopes. As geological consultant for the Joggins UNESCO world heritage proposal, his effort was rewarded last year when the Joggins Fossil Cliffs received World Heritage Status.
Howard Falcon-Lang, please accept with our congratulations the Murchison Fund of the Society for 2009.
Distinguished Service Award – Prof Stuart Monro OBE
The Distinguished Service Award, created in 1998, recognises significant contributions to the management and administration of the Earth sciences, and this year we are pleased to make the award to Professor Stuart Monro of Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.
Stuart Monro is a former principal geologist with the BGS with over 34 years’ research experience there. He is currently Scientific Director of Our Dynamic Earth which he helped set up and is a Visiting Professor at Edinburgh University.
He is Co-Chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council which advises Scottish government of science strategy and promotes science engagement as a non-executive director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland and Chair of the Earth Science Trust. His connections with Higher Education are as a lay Member of the Edinburgh University Court and as an Earth Science tutor with the Open University. He has also been, President of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, the Edinburgh Geological Society and the Westmorland Geological Society.
A dynamic promoter of geology at many different levels from television broadcasting to advising Government, it was no surprise that he was awarded the OBE for services to science in 2007.
Stuart Monro, please accept the Distinguished Service Award of the Geological Society of London.
President’s Award – Dr Carl Thomas Edwin Stevenson
The two President’s Awards are entirely in my gift – one of the privileges of Presidency; carte blanche to bestow the Society’s blessing upon young scientists who, in the Presidential opinion, show particular promise for the future.
The first Award goes to Carl Stevenson of the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. A winner of the Tectonic Studies Group’s Ramsay Medal (2008) and the Young Author Award of the Journal of the Geological Society for 2007, Carl’s work on igneous emplacement mechanisms merges structural geology, field mapping, petrology and geophysics. Surely the perfect Geol. Soc. combination! His work has reintroduced field mapping into debates about the geometry of intrusive bodies and will we believe have profound implications for our understanding of how these bodies are emplaced and how magma travels through the crust.
President’s Award – Dr Alexander Whitaker
Our second President’s Award this year goes to Dr Alexander Whittaker of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London. A young Earth scientist of great promise, Dr Whittaker did his PhD on the controls on bedrock river incision, using natural and laboratory experiments, under the joint supervision of Patience Cowie of Edinburgh University, Greg Tucker of Colorado, Gerald Roberts of UCL and Jerome Lavé of Grenoble. He is now working under Prof. Phil Allen at Imperial College London on quantifying the dynamics of sediment release, transport and deposition in tectonically perturbed landscapes. Congratulations Alex. A great start to what promises to be a glittering career.