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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Awards

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Awards
31 Jul
The Society’s medals and awards have been recognising excellence in geographical research, teaching, fieldwork and public engagement since 1831

This year we recognised 21 individuals for their extraordinary achievements and contributions to geography at the prestigious annual awards ceremony hosted by Society President, Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, in the Ondaatje Theatre.

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This year’s Royal Medals, which are approved by Her Majesty the Queen and among the highest honours of their kind in the world, were awarded to Professor Trevor Barnes and Dame Fiona Reynolds.

Professor Trevor Barnes received the 2019 Founder’s Medal for pioneering developments in the field of economic geography. As Baroness Chalker pointed out, ‘Professor Barnes is not only an outstanding geographer, he is also someone who nurtures the discipline and his books, articles and edited volumes have transformed the understanding of geography’s history in the 20th century.’

In a moving speech addressed to an audience of award recipients and their families, past Society presidents, and current Fellows and members, Professor Barnes highlighted that it was geography’s diversity that had allowed him to have a career spanning almost four decades. He said, ‘What is wonderful about the discipline of geography is its open-minded enthusiastic encouragement of a varied and diverse disciplinary subject matter and forms of enquiry. It has no single model of a geographer, allowing me to be one. I am thrilled, privileged and humbled that the Society has honoured me with a medal, as it did the very different geographers, David Livingstone and Captain Scott.’

Dame Fiona Reynolds received the Patron’s Medal for her contributions to environmental protection, conservation and the preservation of the British landscape. Baroness Chalker said, ‘One of the most prominent geographers in public life, Dame Fiona has fundamentally shifted the debate on conservation and the environment into new territory for many people in the UK. She has sought to facilitate the widest possible public access to culturally important landscapes while recognising the rights of those who live and work in these locations.’

Dame Fiona was not able to attend the ceremony, so in a pre-recorded speech she commented on the wide range of skills that geography provides: ‘To me, geography is the best discipline of all because it teaches you to think laterally. It connects people and places, physical, social and economic forces, politics and issues ranging from the global to the local. We are lateral thinkers, innovators, solution-finders and good organisers. And so it is geographers who can – and need – to help us find solutions to the future of our planet.’

Dame Fiona was not the only one championing the skills of geographers at the ceremony, Professor David Thomas, who received the Victoria Medal for world leading research into dryland environments and societies, highlighted the need for geographers in today’s changing world. He said, ‘Today, many geographers do not use that word, preferring a more specialist or scientific epithet. I am extraordinarily happy to be called a geographer: the freedom it gives to undertake diverse research and be adventurous, in thought and action, has defined my career. As Michael Palin, Barack Obama and others have said: the world needs the perception and oversight of geographers; perhaps now more than ever given today’s divided, threatened and uncertain world.’



Founder’s Medal Professor - Trevor Barnes 
Patron’s Medal - Dame Fiona Reynolds 
Victoria Medal - Professor David Thomas 
Busk Medal - Dr Ayona Datta 
Cherry Kearton Medal and Award - Tacita Dean 
Murchison Award - Professor Mark Birkin 
Back Award - Professor Frank Tanser
Cuthbert Peek Award -  Paul Knight – Missing Maps
Gill Memorial Award - Dr Gemma Catney 
Ordnance Survey Awards (two awards) - Jennifer Monk, Rob Chambers 
Taylor & Francis Award - Dr Jennifer Hill 
Ness Award - Dervla Murphy 
Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize - Fumika Azuma 
Area Prize - Dr Simon Dixon 
Fordham Award - Rebecca Solnit 
Geographical Award - Mark Evans, Outward Bound Oman 
Ron Cooke Award - Gregory Pearson 
Geography in Government Award - The Geography Spatial Analysts Team at the Office for National Statistics 
Honorary Fellowships - Alexander Maitland, Sir David Hempleman-Adams, Carol Beckwith, Angela Fisher

This was published in the August 2019 edition of Geographical magazine

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