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Of trouble and birthdays

Editorial, Geoscientist 17.1 January 2007

Your Editor lets off a little esteem.

Long ago, I edited an official list of UK university institutions. Every year, as I researched and updated each new edition, I soon discovered that - to my surprise - the facts that changed most frequently were not Vice-Chancellors’ names, switchboard numbers or postcodes, but dates of foundation.

Problem was, in publishing the list we had unwittingly created a league table whose existence drove every institution to scour its archives for the feeblest excuse to push its origins further back into the mists of time. The whole thing reached a peak of absurdity when one Scottish university informed me that it was about to celebrate its 250th birthday three years before its 500th. I dropped foundation dates soon after that.

Happily, the Society knows that (with a creditable disdain for superstition) 13 men on Friday 13 November 1807 formed a Society to stimulate the zeal of British geologists. But what of Geoscientist?. Our Big Birthday passed unmarked on 30 March 2005 - the 30th anniversary of the first edition of our predecessor, British Geologist, conceived by the precursors of the Institution of Geologists. Geoscientist “proper” originated on reunification, when BG subsumed the Society’s Newsletter in ?January 1991.

From quarterly, the magazine progressed to bimonthly, and finally monthly - and has changed beyond all recognition in that time through many re-designs. These usually happened in March, our birth-month; but we planned, long ago, that in Bicentenary year we would bring our makeover forward to January, and incorporate the Society’s Bicentenary livery (familiar from monthly advertisements, conference circulars etc.) into our page design. Carol Liddle (Production Editor, whose creative work this is) and I both hope you like the result - and appreciate the symbolism (as much as the extra colour and heavier paper).

It doesn’t stop there. The Society’s 200th will bring yet another huge advance for Geoscientist. The all-new, launching in May 2007, will incorporate a sub-site called Geoscientist Online. For then on, everything that you read in this magazine, and more - Features, Reviews, Society News, People and leaders - will appear on the website, and remain there for permanent reference.

Geoscientist, with its independent Editor-in-Chief (Prof. Tony Harris), is the Society’s very own fourth estate; a free forum, independent of Council, Officers, or the Burlington House Secretariat. It is truly the Fellowship magazine - a sophistication almost unique among learned societies. Being its Editor is for me a pleasure and privilege, and having now (somehow) been responsible for more than half the editions of Geoscientist that there have ever been, I am truly glad I did not follow the early advice of one crusty reader – whose disapproving letter now graces my office mantelpiece - urging me “to seek alternative employment with the Sunday Sport”.

The magazine wishes the Society many happy returns on its birthday - and looks forward to stimulating its readers’ zeal throughout 2007 with an exciting programme of news, views and comment.