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The Prestwich Medal

""This Medal is awarded every three years to persons ‘who shall have done well for the advancement of the science of geology’.

The Prestwich Medal is not being awarded in 2017.

The 2016 Prestwich Medal winner was Henry Emeleus


The Society’s Prestwich Medal goes this year to a geologist who has devoted 60 years in the service of the geological community, teaching generations of undergraduate students, undertaking pioneering fieldwork and research and producing many maps and memoirs of Scottish and Greenland geology - Dr Henry Emeleus of Durham University.

Henry Emeleus is without doubt a leading expert on the formation of igneous rocks in North West Britain and Greenland.  His outstanding talent and energy as a field geologist, and intuitive ability to discern relationships between and within rocks, have resulted in the production of numerous geological maps for major international organisations – including over 100 published papers, three BGS maps of NW Scotland, and a further 7 published map sheets for the Geological Survey of Greenland, and later of Denmark .   

His early research centred on the Western Mournes and Slieve Gullion.  Later, for the Geological Survey of Greenland, he worked on Precambrian intrusions of southern Greenland and the Paleocene lavas of East Greenland.  His more recent research has concentrated on the Tertiary geology of Britain’s north and west.

In addition to his extensive research and mapping work, Henry has served as Sub-Dean for Durham’s Faculty of Sciences and was acting Head of Department for a year in the University’s Department of Geology.  He has successfully supervised 18 PhD students and continues to participate actively in national and international research.

Henry Emeleus, your many students populate the upper echelons of academia, geological surveys and industry worldwide.  You have popularised British and Irish field geology with four Memoirs, popular geological guides and several published survey maps.  For these achievements, and the extraordinary number of careers which you have so decisively influenced, you are indeed a most worthy recipient of the Prestwich Medal of the Geological Society of London.

Henry Emeleus replied:

Mr President, thank you for your kind words. It is a great honour to have been selected to receive this medal and I thank the Society most warmly for bestowing it on me.

Like Joseph Prestwich, my lifelong interests have been in Tertiary rocks, albeit very different from those of the London Basin.   I was brought up on the edge of the Antrim lavas but investigating the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gullion proved more attractive, first when I was at Queen’s University and, later, at Oxford. This move, to Wager’s lively department, led to many summers with the Geological Survey of Greenland, exploring Pre-Cambrian alkaline igneous complexes and Tertiary basalts, often with Brian Upton, who continues to enlighten and entertain me to this day, even under adverse Hebridean conditions.

At Durham, I joined Kingsley Dunham’s thriving department. As part of their wide ranging courses, undergraduates received (and continue to receive) an exceptionally sound grounding in field geology. Time and again, returning graduates have emphasised how this benefitted them in their careers.  Most UK Earth Sciences departments provide similar instruction and the skills imparted can give our graduates an edge when seeking employment, especially abroad.  Field work may be expensive, but to those who criticise it on those grounds I would simply say that it is an essential component of a balanced degree course and thoroughly cost effective.

I have been indebted to many people during my career, but especially to the late Jack Preston for his inspired teaching at Queen’s, to David Stephenson for his patient guidance during my contract work with BGS, to Jon Davidson and the Earth Sciences Department at Durham for continuing support and, particularly, to my wife, Ruth, for help in the field and holding the fort during my prolonged absences from home.