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Notes on the History of the IG


Notes on the History of the Institution of Geologists by Rick Brassington

  1. Confusion has risen from time to time over the difference between a trade union and a professional institution. A trade union is an organisation established primarily to represent its members’ interests in negotiations with employers over pay and conditions. A professional body on the other hand, regulates that profession to ensure that members of the profession achieve a minimum standard before they are able to practice and has a code of conduct to which the members must adhere. It also provides a collective voice for the profession to provide informed opinion to government and other public organisations and may encourage research and the advancement of knowledge. It plays no role in negotiations with employers.
  1. APIPG Committee members 1975 - 1977
    • Chairman Colin Bristow* Chief Geologist, ECC Ltd, St Austell
    • General Secretary John Knill* Professor of Engineering Geology, Imperial College
    • Treasurer Colin Dixon* Senior Lecturer, Imperial College 
    • Editor Chris Wilson* Senior Lecturer, Open University
    • Mike Barefoot* Chief Opencast Geologist, NCB
    • Vic Colter Chief Geologist British Gas Corporation 
    • Annette Cutler* Geologist, Continental Oil Company 
    • J. Ditchburn Deputy Area Geologist, NCB Fife 
    • John Essex Land Reclamation Officer, Thurrock Borough Council 
    • Jane French* Director, Brown’s Geological Information Service Ltd 
    • Tony Gladwell Chief Geologist, Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd 
    • Roger Hawkins* Senior Geologist, RMC 
    • John James* Exploration Manager, British Gypsum Ltd 
    • Peter Lancaster-Jones* Senior Engineering Geologist, Cementation Ground Engineering Ltd John Lloyd* Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham 
    • Wallace Pitcher* Professor of Geology, University of Liverpool 
    • Dave Roberts Group Geologist, ARC Ltd 
    • Barry Scott Managing Director, Noranda Exploration (UK) Ltd 
    • John Shanklin* Chief Geologist, Sir Alfred McAlpine & Son Ltd 
    • Brian Taylor District Geologist, NE England, Institute of Geological Sciences 
    • Peter Warren* Sience & Technology Section, Cabinet Office
    • WB Wolfenden Assistant Director, Robertson Research Lt
Co-opted Members
    • Colin Fothergill Chief Geologist, Tricentrol Ltd 
    • DS Seabrook Manager, S&A Geophysical Ltd
* indicates those who are listed as the "Subscribers" who are listed in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Institution of Geologists Limited. The Subscribers also included:
  • John Brooks
  • Eric Durrence 
  • Bill Evans
  • Phil Horner 
  • John Mather 
  • Clive Nicholas 
  • Andrew Skinner 
  • Gordon Stewart 
  • Harold Wilson
  1. The total number of professional geologists in Britain is not known with any great accuracy. The Society’s Working Party thought that there might be more than 6,000, although many considered that the figure was less at around 4,000 - 5,000. When information was being collated for the second edition of The Geologist’s Directory, published in 1982, data was also requested on the number of professional geologists employed in the different organisations listed in the publication. Only a part sample was achieved, however the information was sufficient to confirm the Working Party’s estimate of slightly more than 6,000. The definition of professional geologist was someone who would now be able to qualify as a Chartered Geologist or was working to achieve that level of experience. It included geophysicists, geochemists and the like without first degrees in geology. More recently the Society’s Vice Presidential Working Party on Membership Recruitment and Retention estimate that there now (2001) appears to be some 17,000 geologists employed in Britain. Assuming these figures are correct it represents a growth of almost 300% in twenty years.
  2. British Geologist (now Geoscientist):  Even before the inaugural meeting of APIPG, the Interim Committee initiated the publication of the British Geologist as a newsletter for professional geologists and geophysicists. The first edition appeared in March 1975 just before the inaugural meeting in London. It was printed on distinctive yellow paper with the text obviously type set on a typewriter but this amateur appearance belied the contents that provided news on APIPG’s progress in forming the Institution.
The first article in the first edition of British Geologist in March 1975 was a message from Sir Peter Kent as President of the Geological Society. In welcoming the new magazine, he said "applied geology is of fundamental importance in many walks of life… Engineers have long had their specialized professional institutes, and the need for qualified professional geologists … is now recognised in many countries. It is appropriate that the APIPG should have been established in Britain at a time when the speed of development and the increased need for resources has produced major demands for the application of geological sciences".

The "yellow" editions of British Geologist appeared four times each year until 1978 when Volume 4 No 1 was printed on white paper and British Geologist became the magazine of the Institution of Geologists. Each successive Editor made changes and improvements, building a more modern magazine.

With the reunification of the Institution and the Geological Society in January 1991, it was decided to combine the British Geologist with the Society’s newsletter to form the Geoscientist as the magazine of the Geological Society that we see today. With this change the magazine went from four to six editions each year to provide the membership with more immediate information on Society meetings and other events. Since the start of 1997 the magazine has been published monthly.


  • British Geologist
• 1975 - 1978 Chris Wilson
• 1978 - 1981 Eric Durrance
• 1981 - 1984 Keith Atkinson
• 1984 - 1987 Paul Carter
• 1987 - 1990 Roger Beck
• 1990 - 1991 Bill Dearman
  • Geoscientist
• 1991 - 1996 Roger Beck
• 1996 - 2000 Griff Cordey
• 2001 - Tony Harris*

From 2007
  • Editor in Chief - Prof. Tony Harris
  • Editor - Dr Ted Nield
  • Production Editor- Carol Liddle

* Editor's note: When Ted Nield joined the magazine in 1997/98 as "Subeditor", this in effect created a new post of staff editor.  Previously the magazine had only a designer on the staff, Carol Liddle, who put the magazine together.  Griff Cordey was at that time styled "Editor in Chief".  However, when Tony Harris replaced Griff, he was styled "Editor" in conformity with Ted's title! 

Nevertheless the roles that Ted and Tony fulfilled were exactly those of Editor and Editor in Chief respectively; so in late 2006, this anomaly was rectified in preparation for the Bicentennial , when the magazine underwent a major re-design.  Since then Ted Nield has remained the "Editor" and Tony Harris "Editor in Chief". 
  1. Regional Groups.  A significant early development of APIPG was the formation of groups in a number of different parts of the country where members could meet and discuss the many aspects of applied geology. This laid an important foundation for the Institution of Geologists that has continued today with the Society. This format has provided an important mechanism for professional geologists to pursue their CPD needs as well as building new relationships.
The East Midlands Regional Group was the first APIPG regional group to be formed. Its first meeting was held on 22 September 1976 in East Leake, Nottinghamshire. The honours for the second group to be formed are held by the South West Regional Group that held its first meeting on 19 November 1976 in Exeter. Other regional groups were formed hard on their heels with the West Midlands Regional Group’s first meeting being held on 24 March 1977; that of the North West Group was on 28 April 1977 at Winwick near Warrington; and the Home Counties North Regional Group’s first meeting was on 29 April 1977 in Luton. By the end of that year a regional group had been formed in the West of England and those for Yorkshire, the South East and Scotland were being formed. By 1980, IG had 12 active regional groups covering all parts of mainland Britain.
Apart from receiving the British Geologist, the regular meetings of the regional groups were the most direct contact that the growing membership had with the Institution. The majority of the meetings were to hear lectures and have informal discussions about aspects of applied geology, much as regional groups do today. Activities also included social events and discussions on the Institution’s development from the APIPG, and later the negotiations with the Privy Council and later still the reunification with the Society.
The Regional Groups were co-ordinated by one of the Institution’s two Honorary Secretaries who maintained a regular contact with the group secretaries and also chaired an annual Regional Affairs Committee meeting where all groups were represented.
  1. Presidents & Officers of Council of the Institution of Geologists(details of Honorary Editors is given on the section covering the British Geologist)
  • Presidents

• 1978 - 1980 Bob Cummings
• 1980 - 1984 John Knill
• 1984 - 1985 Dan Ion (died on 31 August 1985)
• 1985 - 1986 John Knill (Acting President)
• 1986 - 1988 Colin Bristow
• 1988 - 1991 John Shanklin (served an extra year during the re-unification process)
  • Chairmen of Council
• 1978 - 1979 Colin Bristow
• 1979 - 1980 John Knill
• 1980 - 1982 John Shanklin
• 1982 - 1984 Howard Headworth
• 1984 - 1986 Colin Knipe
• 1986 - 1988 Colin Dixon
• 1988 - 1990 John Mather
• 1990 - 1991 Alistair Lumsden
  • Honorary Secretaries• 1978 - 1981 Colin Dixon and Roger Hawkins
• 1981 - 1984 John Catt and Rick Brassington
• 1984 - 1987 Brian Hunt and Peter Wright
• 1987 - 1988 John Seymour and David Whiteley
• 1988 - 1990 John Seymour and David Hopkins
• 1990 - 1991 Tony Griffin and David Hopkins
(IG had two Honorary Secretaries with one (the first named above) acting as Company Secretary with the other having responsibilities for regional affairs)
Honorary Treasurers
• 1978 - 1980 John Mather
• 1980 - 1982 Tony Vincent
• 1982 - 1986 Jeremy Joseph
• 1986 - 1989 Mike Owen
• 1989 - 1991 Gordon Robson
  1. The Aberconway Medal
  2. The Geologist’s Directory
Publication of The Geologist’s Directory was initiated by the Institution of Geologists in 1980 as a service to its members, with the intention of providing professional geologists working in the British Isles with a quick and ready access to the names and addresses of companies and organisations relevant to their work. As such, copies of the Directory were given free of charge to all members of the Institution (except students), the costs being met entirely out of sales to the public and from advertising revenue made possible by the collection of the information and the production of the book being completed on a voluntary basis by the successive editors and their many helpers.
Following the reunification in January 1991, publication of The Geologist’s Directory was taken over by the Society following the pattern established by the IG. Since the ninth edition in 1999, it has been published by a specialist publishing company on the Society’s behalf.
The tradition set by the IG was followed by the Society with Chartered Geologists receiving a free copy of the fifth (1991) edition under an arrangement agreed during the reunification process. All members of the Society have been able to purchase the fifth and subsequent editions at a reduced rate, as with all Society publications.
The style of the first edition set the pattern for the following seven, although the successive editors brought significant improvements and additions to the content, with a gradual increase in page numbers from 120 in the first edition to 568 pages by the eighth edition. Since the responsibility for the production of the Directory has been handed over to a specialist publisher the style has been fundamentally changed and it is now aimed at reaching a wider readership rather than simply providing information to professional geologists.
  • Editions of The Geologist’s Directory and Editors
• First Edition 1980 Editor Rick Brassington
• Second Edition 1982 Editor Rick Brassington
• Third Edition 1985 Editor Tricia Henton
• Fourth Edition 1988 Editor Eddie McInairnie
• Fifth Edition 1991 Editor George Reeves – first GS edition
• Sixth Edition 1993 Editor George Reeves
• Seventh Edition 1995 Editor George Reeves
• Eighth Edition 1996 Editor George Reeves
• Ninth Edition 1999 Boundary Associates
• Tenth Edition 2000 Boundary Associates
• Eleventh Edition 2001 Boundary Associates
  1. The President’s Badge of Office (see top of article)
The President’s Badge of Office (or Presidential Jewel) was presented to the Institution by Sir John Knill on 17 March 1984 when, as retiring President, he welcomed his successor Dan Ion. John Knill described the design of the Badge as follows:
"The Badge is based on the design of the Institution’s Seal with the fused letters IG forming the central feature. In the surrounding ring of blue enamel the lettering is as in the Seal except that ‘Incorporated in 1977’ is replaced by ‘President’. The surrounding decorative ring contains the heads of a pick and a hammer which are taken from the crest of the Royal School of Mines. The RSM crest is directly derived from the decoration on the silver buttons to the uniform coats issued to the first staff of the Geological Survey in the 1840s. There is also the connection with the RSM being the venue of many of the meetings which lead to the evolution of IG, and associations with the donor. The medal is suspended from a hanger which contains the APIPG logo in red enamel. The hanger is suspended from a blue ribbon."
The medal was worn by successive Presidents on all official occasions. Following the reunification it was placed on display in the Council room in Burlington House and can be found on the wall facing the windows at the end of the room furthest from the door at the head of the main staircase.
  1. In June 1985, Council decided that it was appropriate to create a higher grade of membership within the Corporate Members in line with other professional institutions. This new grade of Fellow was initiated with six Founding Fellows being nominated by Council, all being former Presidents or Chairmen of Council. This group nominated a further fourteen members to form a Founding Fellows "college" of twenty. From that time Fellows were elected from those already Corporate Members. Those initially nominated by Council were:
• C.M. Bristow; R.H. Cummings; H.G. Headworth; D.C. Ion; J.L. Knill; and J.K. Shanklin.
  • The fourteen members nominated by the intial group were:
• M.J. Barefoot; F.C. Brassington; Sir Malcolm Brown; J.A. Catt; G.Y. Craig; C.J. Dixon; Sir Kingsley Dunham; R.A. Fox; A.R.L. Jones; Sir Peter Kent; J.W. Lloyd; J.D. Mather; J. Newbury; and P.T. Warren.
  1. The third IG President, Dan Ion died suddenly while in office on 31 August 1985. A Memorial Service was held at St James’ Church, Piccadilly on 11 February 1986 by which time donations were received to start a memorial fund in his name. Sir Peter Kent, who had been President of the Geological Society at the time that APIPG was established and also was a Founding Fellow of the Institution, died shortly afterwards and it was decided to have a trust fund that remembered both Dan Ion and Sir Peter Kent. This Trust fund was known as the Distinguished Fellows Memorial Trust and was established "in acknowledgement of the significant contributions made to the Science and Profession of Geology in Great Britain and throughout the world by Dan Ion and Sir Peter Kent". The first Trustees were R.H. Cummings (Chairman), J.A. Seymour (Treasurer), C.M. Bristow, C.J. Dixon and J.W. Gaskarth. R.H. Cummings who had been the first President of IG and a Founding Fellow had been instrumental in establishing the Trust. When he died his name was added to the Trust description. The monies raised were used to assist young geologists (under 30 years of age) with their professional development, normally by contributing to the cost of travel to attend conferences or gain experience in other appropriate ways, the aim being to assist young geologists in the early part of their career, particularly those in industrial employment.
In 2001 the Trustees (who were by then J.W. Gaskarth (Chairman), C.V. Knipe (Treasurer), F.C. Brassington, C.J. Dixon, A.C. Lumsden and E.F.P. Nickless) decided that the aims of the Trust would be best served by it being wound up and the fund passed to the Geological Society for administration. Discussions were held between the Trustees and Council during 2001 and with the Charity Commissioners who’s consent was required to make the changes, and the Society took over the administration at the end of August.
  1. The Privy Council is the body that grants Royal Charters and regulates Chartered bodies.
  2. By that time it was realized that the legal advice given in 1974 was wrong and the Society becoming involved as a regulator of the geological profession would not threaten the Society’s Royal Charter nor risk eviction from Burlington House.
  3. Text of letter sent in March 1990 from the Geological Society President, Professor Derek Blundell to the President of the Institution of Geologists, Mr John Shanklin
This letter was read to the last IG AGM on 10th March 1990 by John Shanklin. The meeting voted to accept the invitation and a formal reply was sent after the IG Council meeting in April 1990.
I am writing on behalf of the Geological Society to invite the membership of the Institution of Geologists to join with us in a unified Society which will incorporate not only the educational and research activities of a Learned Society but also the activities currently undertaken by the Institution of Geologists. As you know, the Society has recently adopted new Bye-laws designed to provide a mechanism for Validation equivalent to the procedure used in IG for election to Corporate Membership and intends to put this forward to the Privy Council to seek its recognition of Chartered Geologist status. The new Bye-laws have also provided prerequisites for election to Fellowship consistent with the requirements of the EC Directive on mutual recognition of qualifications. A written Code of Conduct has been approved, to which all Fellows must adhere. The Bye-laws have established Standing Committees for Fellowship and Validation and for External Affairs.
We believe that these changes provide the basis for unification within the framework of the Charter of the Geological Society without altering the standing of the Society as a charitable organisation or its position in Burlington House and without affecting the status of the present Fellowship. If the Institution of Geologists is willing, Council would very much like to incorporate into the unified Society the IG Regional Group structure and maintain its present identity. We believe that the Regional Groups serve a very valuable function and that there will be new opportunities to enhance their role, especially through interaction with the Society’s Specialist Groups. Similarly, we would wish to continue the publication of a new magazine in the style of British Geologist that would include the diary of events material given in the Society’s Newsletter. We should like to discuss with IG how best to incorporate the various other of its activities and publications that have not yet received detailed attention.
Council wished to make the transition to a Unified Society as straightforward and as expeditious as possible for all concerned, with the aim to complete the transition by 31 December 1990. We believe that the unification of our two organisations will do much to strengthen the science and practice of geology in the years to come and very much hope that the Institution will accept our invitation.