Since its formation in 1830, the Society has recognised excellence in geographical science. An annual grant of 50 guineas from the reigning monarch ‘for the encouragement and promotion of geographical science and discovery’ was replaced in 1836 with a Royal Medal. In 1839, the decision was made to split the Award into two Royals Medals, both of equal standing: the Founder’s Medal and the Patron’s Medal.
The two Royal Medals now form the most prestigious of the Society’s series of awards, which together recognise extraordinary achievement in areas ranging from geographical research, fieldwork and teaching, to cinematography and public engagement. Formally approved by Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Medals have previously been awarded to, among others, David Livingstone, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Professor Diana Liverman, Sir Crispin Tickell and Sir David Attenborough.
The Society’s 2016 medals and awards ceremony took place on 6 June at its headquarters in South Kensington, London. Followed by the Society’s annual reception, the ceremony was both an opportunity to recognise the achievements of geographers and to celebrate the fantastic work of the next generation through awards focused on early career and undergraduate research. In total, 21 individuals and groups were recognised for their outstanding contributions to geography.
Michael Storper, Professor of Economic Geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science, received the Founder’s Medal for scholarship and leadership in human and economic geography. His work focuses on contemporary forces of globalisation, technological development, and industrial change.
Professor Storper said: ‘Geographers’ research is essential to helping humanity find pathways to more just and peaceful societies that respect the environment and are based on respect for all peoples. I am honoured to take my place among other geographers recognised by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for their contributions to our discipline and our commitment to making a better world through geographical research.’
Bob Geldof received the Patron’s Medal for raising global public awareness and challenging the causes of inequality in Africa. The Society’s President, Nicholas Crane, said: ‘Bob Geldof is recognised for his role, over more than 30 years, in inspiring and encouraging people from across the world to discover some of the geographical issues faced in Africa and to become more aware of global poverty, inequality and the role of aid from the world’s richer countries.’
In his acceptance speech, Geldof joked that he had thought he was going to receive the Busk Medal, before describing the influence of the RGS-IBG and past Royal Medal recipients on his childhood and subsequent engagement with economic development in Africa. He said: ‘There is little else in my life that trumps this moment, you do me great honour indeed. Thank you very much.’
Professors Ronald Martin (awarded the Victoria Medal for research excellence in regional economic development), and Professor Jo Sharp (awarded the Busk Medal for innovative field research and empowering others through fieldwork) join the two Royal Medal recipients on the Society’s medals board.
Rachel Meunier received the 2016 Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize for the best undergraduate dissertation. Her work, undertaken while at the University of Cambridge, was entitled ‘Bridging urban divides: The Clichy-Batignolles Urban Development Project, Paris’. Rachel described working on her dissertation project as ‘incredibly rewarding’.
She said: ‘I particularly enjoyed the fieldwork – studying the area, taking photographs and interviewing a wide range of people of people involved in the urban project I was studying.’ Commenting after receiving the prize, she said: ‘Receiving this prize is an amazing recognition. Today has been absolutely fantastic, starting with a beautiful photography exhibition in the sunny gardens. Hearing about the work of all of the other award recipients has made me even more convinced about the relevance of geography today.’
2016 MEDALS AND AWARDS
Royal Medal – Founder’s Medal: Professor Michael Storper
Royal Medal – Patron’s Medal: Bob Geldof KBE
Victoria Medal: Professor Ronald Martin ScD FBA FAcSS
Busk Medal: Professor Jo Sharp
Cherry Kearton Medal and Award: Dr Wendy Darke
Murchison Award: Professor Parvati Raghuram
Back Award: Professor Colin R. Thorne
Cuthbert Peek Award: Professor Dom Kniveton
Gill Memorial Awards: Dr Harriet Hawkins and Dr Joanna M. Nield
Ordnance Survey Awards: Joanna Debens and Kate Otto
Taylor & Francis Award: Dr Margaret H. Byron
Fordham Award: Marjo T. Nurminen and Juha Nurminen
Ness Award: Andrea Wulf
Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize: Rachel Meunier
Area Prize: Dr Sam Halvorsen
Geographical Award: Jurassic Coast World Heritage Team
Honorary Fellowship: Hokey Bennett-Jones and Neville Shulman CBE