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It's your history too!

Rick Brassington

Rick Brassington wishs to remind the Society that the Institution of Geologists was part of its history, too.

Geoscientist 18.5 May 2008

Now that 2007, the year of glorious bicentenary celebrations has come to an end, 2008 might seem like a let-down - a bit like going back to work after two weeks of Christmas. However, we need not look even as far as the Geologists' Association and their sesquicentenary to find an important anniversary worthy of celebration in 2008. I refer of course, to the formation of the Institution of Geologists in 1978 - an important milestone in the Society’s development into its present, modern form.

In 1972 the Council set up a working party to find out if there was support for the idea that professional geologists should be regulated in the same way as almost all other professions. The working party reported that the idea had wide support - although legal advice said that if the Society created this qualification its Royal Charter would be put in jeopardy, with dire consequences - including the loss of Burlington House and severe financial penalty. So, in 1974, Council gave its blessing to a group of Fellows to establish a separate organisation to serve and regulate the geological profession outside the Society. After laying the foundations for the new body, including its organisation, the routes to membership and even the name, the Institution of Geologists was born at a meeting in Birmingham on 24 February 1978.

Close links existed between the Society and IG throughout its existence as almost all the IG members were also active Fellows of the Society. The Society gave support in kind to IG in several ways - not least by providing office accommodation in a Burlington House garret, and allowing its Council Room to be used by IG Council.

IG’s main priority was to establish a Chartered Geologist title to match that of Chartered Engineer. By early 1986 an agreement was close with the Privy Council for a Royal Charter that would give IG the legal authority to grant the title. However, the Privy Council asked if the Geological Society had changed its views since 1974. Discussions between the two Councils led to further consultations with lawyers who now advised that the Society’s Royal Charter would not be affected after all. And so the marriage was brokered as the "reunification" in January 1991, and the rest, as they say, is history.

IG’s significance can be measured in part at least by the dowry it brought - including the Chartered Geologist qualification and the validation process; the European Geologist qualification; the regional groups that now extend Society activities across the whole country; the Aberconway Medal; the Geologist’s Directory; and not least, the magazine The British Geologist - which became Geoscientist. Taking on these extra roles after the 1991 reunification meant that Society’s organisation also needed changing. The modern Society owes so much to the IG years.

There are few signs of IG’s existence in Burlington House and as a result perhaps few Fellows under 40 know of its existence or significance. Perhaps this is the reason that it hardly figured in the Bicentenary celebrations. I think that it would be fitting for the Society to dispel any feeling that IG has been airbrushed from our history by a suitable commemorative plaque, placed on the walls of the Society’s apartments with due ceremony during this year when IG would have been 30 years old.

Read more about the history of IG