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2003 Awards: Citations, Replies


Wollaston Medal – Prof. Ikuo Kushiro

The Wollaston Medal, the Society’s highest honour first issued to William Smith in 1831, goes this year to Professor Ikuo Kushiro.

Ike Kushiro is one of the world’s most distinguished experimental petrologists whose work has helped unravel the mysteries of melting under spreading centres. His experiments on wet and dry peridotite melting in particular have had an almost incalculable impact upon our understanding of how basalt melts beneath ridges and island arcs. It is fair to say that most of the ideas that led to our current state of understanding were first propounded by Kushiro – for example, the role of water and amphibole in melt generation beneath island arcs.

The models that petrologists use and by which they now understand melting processes beneath ridge systems were carried out either by Kushiro or his students. All in all, his influence on the development of igneous petrology has been greater than anyone still active in the field.

Kushiro has been a major influence both in Japan and in the USA, where much of his work was carried out during his stay at the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington DC. His wide ranging international contacts and collaboration have been a dominant influence upon Japanese petrologists, and several of that country’s impressive research groups owe their existence to him. During 1990-94 when Kushiro was Dean of Science at the University of Tokyo, and thereafter as Vice President of the University, his influence upon scientific research generally in Japan has been very strong indeed. Though like all Tokyo professors he had to retire at 60, Ike Kushiro continued to work full time at his laboratory in Okayama University, Misasa.

Ikuo Kushiro, you are a most worthy recipient of the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London.

Ikuo Kushiro replied:

President, Fellows of the Society, ladies and gentlemen:

I am greatly honoured to have been awarded the prestigious Wollaston Medal by the Geological Society of London, and I should like to express my deep appreciation to the Society, in particular, to the Awards Committee and Council.

Looking back over my career, I noticed that my study and research on petrology was, like that of many other Japanese petrologists of my generation, significantly influenced by scientists from the United Kingdom. I began to study igneous petrology at the University of Tokyo, and carried out a petrological study of differentiated dolerite Sills in northern Japan as my graduate thesis, under the supervision of Professor Hisashi Kuno. During this time, I learned a lot of igneous petrology from the books by Harker and Holmes. It was also during the graduate course that I became interested in the problem of basalt magma genesis, and learned from, and was enlightened by, the pioneering works of British-based petrologists, notably E B Bailey, W Q Kennedy, L R Wager, and C E Tilley.

In 1962, soon after I finished my graduate course, I became a postdoctoral fellow at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where I started my career as an experimental petrologist. I learned the fundamentals of experimental petrology from Frank Schairer and Hat Yoder, and was also stimulated by Mike O'Hara, who was my roommate at the Laboratory. At that time, experimetal petrology on basalt magma genesis was just beginning to flourish, and I was fortunate to have been able to participate in it from its earliest stage. During my work on the role of water in magma genesis, a debate with Dave Green was most stimulating. Later, I was inspired by the pioneering, theoretical work by Dan McKenzie and his associates on the melting of mantle and generation of magma.

After I returned to the University of Tokyo, I was unfortunate to become involved (unwillingly) in an administrative job at the University. Notwithstanding, I was a lucky professor, having had many excellent students, who helped me greatly in conducting my research on the genesis of island arc magmas and melting of mantle peridotite. I should mention that several of those students were accepted as postdocs at universities in England, such as Southampton, Cambridge and Manchester, where they were able to further develop their research.

After I retired from the University of Tokyo, I moved to the Institute for Study of the Earth's Interior at Okayama University, Misasa, where I was able to conduct my research without much administrative work, and to also enjoy our country life. In such an isolated Institute, I was pleased to have hosted many distinguished visitors, including Dan McKenzie and Don Fraser, who greatly stimulated people at the Institute. About four years ago I retired from Okayama University, and I am now affiliated to the Institute for Frontier Research on Earth Evolution (IFREE) near Tokyo, where I enjoy discussions with many young talents from different disciplines of Earth science.

In accepting this high honour, I would like to thank all the people mentioned above, and many others not mentioned here, for their teaching, collaboration, help and encouragement. I am most grateful to all of you of the Society for having given me such an honour and also a chance to think of those people again.

Lyell Medal – Prof. Harry Elderfield FRS

The Lyell Medal of the Geological Society goes this year to Professor Harry Elderfield FRS.

Harry Elderfield has made his name in ocean chemistry and palaeochemistry, using trace metals and isotopes in biogenic carbonate as palaeochemical tracers, and studying the chemistry of modern and ancient oceans - especially those of the glacial epoch and the Cenozoic.

Harry’s early career saw him working on the behaviour of trace metals in oceans and their sediments, and in fluid flow through the ocean crust and sediments under the influence of off-axis hydrothermal circulation. He became one of the first low-temperature geochemists to appreciate how radiogenic isotopes might be used to solve the problems of marine geochemistry, developing the seawater strontium isotope curve for the Cenozoic – now the most reliable isotopic record available for the Phanerozoic. He also coined the term “strontium isotope stratigraphy” to describe the application of this curve to chronostratigraphy – a technique now widely used in academia and industry for empirical dating of marine sediments.

Harry has also worked on iodine speciation in seawater and porewaters; the separation of cerium from other rare earth elements in a classic example of redox behaviour; he has developed a precise mass spectrometric analysis method – and made the first ever measurements of oceanic profiles for – 10 rare earth elements. The rare earths are now widely used as tracers in sedimentary geochemistry and palaeoceanography.

Harry’s current interests include defining chemical proxies from biogenic carbonates and using them to understand the ancient ocean. In particular, he has pioneered the development of foraminiferal magnesium thermometry, which is rapidly becoming accepted for the estimation of past ocean temperatures.

For these and many other landmark achievements in the field of oceanic chemistry, Harry Elderfield, winner of the Society’s Prestwich Medal for 1993, you are now awarded the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society.

Harry Elderfield replied:

President, Fellows of the Geological Society, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is a very great pleasure and honour to receive the Lyell Medal, named after a such a pivotal figure in geology and previously awarded to many distinguished scientists. Many colleagues and co-workers have helped, advised and criticised me, and a number of funding organisations, as well as my family, have supported me in what is both my career and the best of pastimes: doing research for its pleasure, excitement and discovery. I thank you all.

As my citation explained, my research interests have focussed on two seeming simple things in a roughly sequential manner: seawater and calcium carbonate. The former contains a measure of how the earth has evolved on a range of time scales equivalent to the oceanic residence times of the chemical elements in sea water; and the latter is a fascinating archive of the former: the records from foraminifera in oceanic sediments contain in a decipherable code a record of the chemical evolution of the earth and its atmosphere. Thus, I suppose that I have a adopted a Lyellian approach to my work: using modern ocean geochemistry and biogenic calcification for the insight it provides to past ocean composition. This revolves around the role of carbon. The relationship between the relatively small but extremely potent levels of carbon in the atmospheric reservoir and the larger levels in its other reservoirs is a major societal issue and the geological community has a very important role to play in its understanding. An important role of scientists is to keep society honest about the applications of science.

As most of you will know, Charles Darwin became a great friend and correspondent of Charles Lyell. Darwin is quoted as saying, “The greatest merit of the Principles of Geology was that it altered the whole tone of one's mind, and therefore that, when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it through his eyes.” Therefore, in a modest manner, in the tradition of Lyell, I hope that when you next look at sea water and foraminifera you will see more than a salty liquid and white grains of sand.

My thanks to the Geological Society for this award.

Murchison Medal – Prof. Alexander Norman Halliday

This year’s Murchison Medal goes to another geochemist whose work has had worldwide impact, Professor Alex Halliday.

Alex Halliday, Professor and Head of Department at ETH Zurich, has always had a reputation for approaching problems in innovative and highly original ways, and covering a range of research interests that are unusually broad. His early work was on dating the products of crustal fluid flow and he was the first to show convincingly that many European mineral deposits had been strongly affected by hydrothermal fluids associated with the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea.

While he was at the Scottish Universities Reactor Centre Alex switched fields completely and developed an interest in silicic magmatism, becoming the first (once again) to demonstrate strontium and oxygen isotopic concentric zoning within individual granitic plutons – later extending this to large volume ashflow tuffs. He was first to show a systematic relationship between neodymium isotope compositions and inherited uranium-lead zircon ages in granites. And most memorably he presented evidence (in 1989) that large volumes of low temperature silicic magmas can linger for several hundred thousand years in the continental crust with very slow rates of crystallisation.

Alex Halliday has pioneered many new techniques for dating the products of crustal fluid flows, often using brand new techniques in the process, such as MC-ICP mass spectrometry. These new instrumental techniques have greatly enhanced our understanding of elements whose geochemistry was previously poorly understood. The development of the hafnium-tungsten system, providing powerful new constraints on the early evolution of the Earth, meteorites and other bodies of the inner solar system, has been perhaps the most significant of these many invaluable contributions.

Alex Halliday, it is an honour for us to add your name to the roll of distinguished winners of the Society’s Murchison Medal.

Alex Halliday replied:

Mr President, colleagues and friends, thank you very much for this award. It is a great honour. I am especially grateful to the people who nominated me. I know Chris Hawkesworth played a role in this.

My being honoured with the Murchison Medal is an outcome of a long series of influences in my life. First, among these was my teacher Bob Quixley at the Humphry Davy Grammar School in Penzance, who cultivated enthusiasm for geology in several would-be Earth scientists.

My particular passion for research benefited enormously from doing a PhD with John Mitchell in the Geophysics Department at Newcastle. Apart from him immersing me in isotope geology, the Department itself hosted many big meetings and invited talks on continental drift, the origin of the solar system, the Earth's mantle and the physics of minerals. A number of isotope geochemists visited Newcastle and they were incredibly helpful when subsequently I moved to SURRC in Scotland and changed fields completely. Keith O'Nions provided a particularly strong influence, especially his enthusiasm for new techniques and the big issues in Earth sciences. Since those times 30 years ago there has never been any doubt about how I wanted to do research.

In Scotland I became very interested in granites by working with Ed Stephens, and latterly in the lower crust and mantle by working with Brian Upton and Godfrey Fitton. I also established critical collaborations with Wes Hildreth and Gail Mahood in California who were turning the world upside down with their ideas on silicic magma chambers. I was keen to move to the US and when I finally did so, I found that the University of Michigan and the American funding system were just what I needed to develop my ideas further.

The biggest breakthrough came from acquiring the world's first multiple collector ICP mass spectrometer. It was no trouble to raise money for this and establish an excellent team of scientists who worked extremely hard.

Most notable were John Christensen, Der-Chuen Lee, Mark Rehkämper and Claudine Stirling. My research programs became dominated by deducing the origins of the sun and planets on the one hand and looking at climate related changes in sea-level, erosion and ocean circulation on the other.

In 1998 I moved to ETH, another great academic institution where I am lucky to have a wonderful research team. I am very optimistic about the future; the potential for discovery in the field of isotope geochemistry today is huge.

However, it is particularly exciting to be doing all this within a collegial department that also is expanding and developing at a fast pace.

In closing I must mention the person who has influenced and helped me more than anybody else over the past 20 years. Christine is without question the individual who provides the common sense and perspective in my life. Those of you who know her will be aware that she also possesses a great sense of humour and an ability to put academics, our worries and our egos into a more important frame of reference that involves the real world and bigger issues. I can't imagine how things would have worked out without her.

William Smith Medal – Richard Frederick Paynter Hardman CBE

This year’s William Smith Medal for contributions to applied geology is awarded to former President of the Geological Society, Richard Hardman.

Richard Hardman has spent a whole career enthusiastically linking geological insights to petroleum exploration, achieving through his boundless drive and energy, exploration results that have benefited industry and academia even more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

After 10 years learning the ropes at BP, Richard became (from 1969) one of the most conspicuous figures in North Sea oil and gas exploration with Amoco, and latterly Amerada Hess. Richard’s unique ability to analyse data and to “think outside the box”, questioning conventional geological thinking, has resulted in his name being associated with many of the North Sea’s major new play concept discoveries, including the 950 million barrel Valhall Field (1976), the South Arne Field (Denmark); the Hutton and NW Hutton fields (1973, 1975); the 500 million barrel Scott Field in the Central North Sea and the very subtle traps seen in the Fife, Fergus and Flora fields.

As though that were not enough, Richard’s reforming zeal has transformed this Society (having been Chair of the Petroleum Group, Chair of the (then) Sponsorship Committee, and ultimately President). He has been Chairman of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain and many other influential committees both in science and its application; and he has organised many landmark conferences, facilitating the flow of information and expertise between industry and academe.

Richard Hardman, you are the doyen of applied petroleum geologists and a worthy recipient of the William Smith Medal of the Geological Society of London.

Richard Hardman replied:

President, Council, Fellows, I am proud to accept the William Smith Medal.

I am proud of the Society that offers this medal, a Society dedicated to serving the science and profession of geology. The medal inaugurated in 1977 belatedly commemorates the father of stratigraphy, William Smith who completed “the map that changed the world” in 1815. With this medal the Society ended the division, often bitter, between those involved in the science of geology and those responsible for its practical application.

An epitome of the past is the remark made by Murchison, who said of De La Beche, “He is a dirty dog and a thorough jobber” because the founding Director of the Geological Survey had accepted payment for geological mapping. The credit for ending the feud must go to John Mather and Derek Blundell, prime movers in the long drawn-out merger of the Institution of Geologists and the Geological Society.

President, you may recall that the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain was only formed because in 1965 the Geological Society declined to form an entity for those locally engaged in oil and gas exploration in and around Britain. This was a missed opportunity, redressed to some degree by the later founding of the Petroleum Group. Today, although we expect local oil and gas production to continue for perhaps 50 years, exploration for oil and gas is in steep decline and with it employment of people who have proved to be the life blood of the Society. To thrive the Society needs to move with the times and embrace the next major challenge with an eagerness it did not exhibit in 1965. The auguries are favourable. Already the Society, in conjunction with the Geological Society of America, has sponsored a conference in Edinburgh on Earth System Science; but now is the time to show not just support but leadership in this area. Under your Presidency and that of the President-elect I am sure it will do so.

I am proud because this award gives an opportunity to acknowledge, publicly, the many colleagues who have supported me. In particular I would like to mention two: Colin Campbell (who over the years has helped enormously, never more than when I was a green geologist with BP in Colombia) and Sam Laidlaw (who, at Amerada Hess, gave me the opportunity to show what I could do with North Sea Exploration). But for these two, I know I would not be standing here today.

Finally, I am proud to accept this medal as a tribute to the industry I have worked in. Oil and gas exploration is an industry with all the thrills and spills of the fairground, yet one vital to the wellbeing of the Western world. Too often it is pilloried; and too little is it praised. As one who has played a small part in the efforts that have seen this country self-sufficient in oil and gas the medal is accepted, as a token of regard for an industry in which I have spent my working life.

Coke Medal – Prof. Michael Bickle

The winner of the first of our Coke Medals for 2003 is Professor Michael Bickle of the University of Cambridge.

Mike Bickle’s career began in Cambridge, where he fledged as a researcher under the tutelage of Ron Oxburgh, now Lord Oxburgh and my predecessor as President of this Society. From this you may guess that his early work was structural and concerned with thrust tectonics, but since then his career has ranged across igneous and metamorphic petrology to sedimentary geochemistry, making fundamental contributions in all of them.

As a young post-doc he went to Zimbabwe to study the Precambrian Belingwe greenstone belt. This work, done in conjunction with Euan Nisbet dealt in depth with ultramafic geochemistry and had important things to say about the origin of life. – This work is much quoted and is now one of the major sources of information on the Archaean.

His subsequent work has encompassed mantle geochemistry and petrology, and since his move to Western Australia, a strong isotopic component. His hugely influential papers with Dan McKenzie of 1987 and 88 (on the volume and composition of melt generated by lithospheric extension, and the transport of heat and matter by fluids during metamorphism) would alone merit an award.

Mike - now back in Cambridge - your work is still as fertile and productive as ever, turning out a stream of well-crafted papers on diverse topics all through the 1990s. In addition, you have been a very effective member of influential committees, particularly the NERC Grants Committee. You also made a critical contribution to the campaign to keep Britain in membership of the Ocean Drilling Programme and its successor the IODP.

Mike Bickle, in recognition of these and many other achievements, it is my great pleasure to present you with the Coke Medal of The Geological Society.

Mike Bickle replied:

President, ladies and gentlemen, I am greatly honoured to receive the Coke Medal, not least because I have always considered the Geological Society the custodian of the sort of geology I wanted to do.

I started in Cambridge when among those who taught us were Drum Matthews and Dan McKenzie actively formulating plate tectonics and Alan Smith and John Dewey who were using this to revise large areas of the subject. What we learnt was to ignore most of what we had been taught, but I find my present students don’t take kindly to this sort of advice. Then I went to Oxford where Ron Oxburgh had a fundamental impact on my career and introduced me to equally revolutionary advice, that it is possible to write in a manner that others might understand. I’ve been struggling with this ever since.

At Oxford I met Phil England, Chris Hawkesworth, Dave Waters, Roger Powell and Keith O’Nions - all beholden to Steve Richardson and Keith Cox for much encouragement and advice. Keith Cox took on the role of a second supervisor when I switched to doing igneous petrology in my first post-doctoral research on the Archaean. He was especially kind to include a few short sentences in his well known text book concerning our enthusiastic over-interpretation of data. Work on the Archaean is the ultimate geologist’s indulgence. Life, surface environments, spectacularly hot volcanic rocks all preserved from the far distant past. The most enduring of my scientific collaborations has been with Euan Nisbet who has accompanied me throughout my career in fantasies concerning the Archaean world.

On returning to Cambridge from Australia in the mid-80s I felt it was opportune to go back to understanding how the Earth works now. In this I am fortunate to receive continuing instruction from Dan McKenzie although I’m slow in learning the lessons. Curiously it was work on Archaean komatiites that lead to my most influential paper with Dan on how the modern Earth melts. Work with Tim Holland and students and subsequent colleagues, Judy Baker, Marian Holness, Alisdair Skelton and Damon Teagle along with Colin Graham, John Ferry, Alan Matthews and Doug Rumble has taught me much about fluid flow in metamorphic rocks. More recently, as I have started work on the controls on Himalayan river chemistry, collaborations with Nigel Harris and Ian Fairchild have elucidated a whole new area of the subject to me. I am indebted to all these colleagues and many others.

Perhaps the greatest support has come from my wife Hazel, who has not only balanced family and work but taught me something about isotope geology, set up and run isotope and mass-spectrometry labs in different continents and taken part in joint field work all over the world.

I got involved in IODP by chance but I think it is clear that many of the major challenges in the Earth Sciences now lie in how the surficial environment is maintained on all time scales and how it interacts with the solid Earth. The oceans are a superb repository of information on this. If, as looks likely, the government funds further exploration in this area I think it is critical that the UK geoscience community takes maximum advantage.

May I conclude by thanking the Society and its Council for this honour, and my colleagues for their support.

Coke Medal – Prof. Joseph John Lowe

The other Coke Medal this year is awarded to Professor John Lowe of Royal Holloway, University of London.

John Lowe is an Earth scientist of international renown in the field of Quaternary geology, most notably in environmental and climatic change associated with the transition between the last glaciation and the current interglacial period.

John rapidly established a strong reputation for palynological stratigraphic investigation in the 1970s and early 80s before turning his attention in 1984 to the critical evaluation of those studies and the use of carbon fourteen as a dating method – which led to much more circumspect application of the latter technique. He has pioneered new approaches to high-resolution geochronology in the late Quaternary, helping to construct climatic gradients over NW Europe between 14,000 and 9000 years ago. He currently coordinates an international collaborative research programme named INTIMATE, which is attempting to integrate ice-core, marine and terrestrial records at a high temporal resolution.

In addition to these and many other academic distinctions, Professor Lowe is a respected research administrator, research supervisor, teacher and editor, and an indefatigable committee member.

John Lowe, for these and other diverse contributions both to your own research field and to the wider geological community through your administrative, pedagogic and editorial work, it is my great pleasure to award you the Coke Medal of the Geological Society.

John Lowe replied:

President, Fellows of the Society, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honour and a privilege to be recognised by the Society in this way. I thank all those who considered me worthy of such a tribute.

Perhaps some of you will consider the period to which I have dedicated most of my 32 years of research - the late Quaternary - as a rather narrow geological window to warrant such devoted attention. Yet while I enjoy a rather wide range of geological interests, it is the records and history of this very short, but important, interval that have held me in their grip throughout the course of my career.

I began my PhD research at Edinburgh University in 1970, with the naive ambition of developing an accurate chronology for the last glaciers to have occupied the SE Scottish Highlands. With that aim achieved, the plan was then to move swiftly on to explore other, equally absorbing geological issues. Yet here I am, 32 years on, still striving to comprehend the complexities of the stratigraphical records of that same, short interval - an interval for which, incidentally, the geological evidence is not only wonderfully well preserved, but also amenable to analysis at high temporal resolution.

But therein, paradoxically, lies the rub: what constitutes a ‘high’ temporal resolution in this particular context? While the dating methods available to us late Quaternarists have grown ever more diverse and sophisticated, at the same time the demands for even greater precision (and accuracy) have also increased. The Greenland ice-core records have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the Earth is quite capable of remarkable switches in climate within a human lifetime - even possibly within a decade. One of the big challenges for Quaternary geology, therefore, is to develop methods capable of measuring the duration and sequence of geological events with a decadal, or even annual, precision. We owe it to present and future generations to succeed in this aim, because the reliability of climate models, and so much more, partly depends upon this.

In pursuing this Holy Grail, my daily work brings me into regular contact with oceanographers, glaciologists, geomorphologists, climate modellers, palaeobiologists, phenologists and many other specialists. Such cross-disciplinary networking now epitomises modern Geology, and it is a privilege to be able to play a small role in encouraging even closer co-operation between the sciences.

I finish by taking this opportunity to thank, in particular, Brian Sissons, Russell Coope, Mike Walker and Jim Rose, who have been the most influential of mentors, as well as close colleagues, for many years. I also acknowledge the influence of those two ‘superstars’ of British Quaternary geology, Sir Nick Shackleton and Professor Geoff Boulton, whose vision and scientific rigour have inspired me greatly over the years.

I thank the Society once again for this award, which I accept with, I hope, a not too unseemly fervour.

Bigsby Medal – Paul Nicholas Pearson

The Bigsby Medal of the Geological Society goes this year to Professor Paul Pearson of Cardiff University.

Paul Pearson’s academic career has taken in Oxford Cambridge and Bristol, before his recent move to Cardiff, and seen him move from early work on the planktonic foraminifera to his studies, which continue today, of isotope geochemistry. His thesis, on the evolution and phylogeny of the planktonic forams of the Palaeogene, has acted as the springboard for a scholarly range of palaeoceanographic studies.

Notably, he has studied the boron isotopic compositions of fossil foraminifers, offering a window into the palaeo-pH of oceans – and hence the critical carbon dioxide composition of the atmosphere. He has also used oxygen isotopes to reconstruct the Cretaceous-Eocene “greenhouse Earth”.

Paul, your work has had a major influence on the burgeoning field of palaeoceanography and makes you a worthy recipient of the Bigsby medal of the Society.

Paul Pearson replied:

Thank you, President, for this award. It is customary on these occasions to recall one's earliest steps in geology. For me they were very wet steps, in the River Mole, where as a 10 year-old I was in the habit of searching for treasure in the gravel under the eddies. I clearly recall my father turning up one Saturday morning with a large sieve and a spade. By the afternoon I had a small collection of fossil teeth, which so interested a geologist who lived nearby that he passed them on to his colleague at Kingston University. I was then invited for a tour of the department, and presented with a hand lens, which I still have.

That sieve was something of a portent, I think, because I was eventually to specialise in micropalaeontology, which involves a lot of sieving. For my PhD research, I chose to study forams not because I particularly liked them, in themselves, but because they are a means for getting at the big questions. But, grudgingly at first, I have grown to appreciate them too.

So I did find treasure in the river that day. It does not matter that the teeth turned out to be all from modern deer! Geology has taken me all over the world, to the most beautiful and fascinating places, along routes that nobody but a geologist would take. I extend my thanks to my parents for encouraging my curiosity, those nice people at Kingston, who, metaphorically speaking, stand for the many people who have helped me along the way, and the Geological Society of London for this wholly unexpected award.

Sue Tyler Friedman Medal – Prof. Rhoda Rappaport

The Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of the Society, awarded for distinguished research in the history of the science, goes this year to Professor Emerita Rhoda Rappaport of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York.

Rhoda Rappaport has devoted her distinguished career to the study of geology in the 17th and 18th centuries, the crucial formative period just before the foundation and first golden age of this Society.

Professor Rappaport’s early work focused on the geological research of Antoine Lavoisier, which had ranked highly in the famous chemist’s own evaluation of his achievements, but which had been largely overlooked by historians. Her first publications put that omission to rights, describing Lavoisier’s pre-Revolutionary contributions to the mineral and geological surveys of France. She also showed how he had arrived at a subtle causal explanation of the Tertiary formations around Paris, using a then novel explanation based on what we would call transgression and regression.

Since then, Professor Rappaport has widened out her studies of the geological research of this period, centring on France, which was then the centre of the scientific world. Her papers have had an influence out of all proportion to their bulk. Her greatest contribution, her book entitled When geologists were historians (1997) is a superb survey of the practice of Earth sciences across Europe from the time of the foundation of scientific societies and academies in the late 17th Century to the age of Buffon.

Rhoda Rappaport, for a research career that has thrown light on a remarkably fertile period in our science’s history - a period when it can truly be said that new concepts modern geology takes for granted as its foundation stones were first conceived - I am pleased to award you the 2003 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of the Geological Society.

Rhoda Rappaport replied:

President, may I first express my gratitude to the Society, and say how much I regret being unable to travel to London to receive this award in person.

Early this year, I informed the President of the Society that I was “astonished, pleased, and honoured” by this award. I need hardly explain to this audience the honour and pleasure in having my work appreciated by a Society with so distinguished and venerable a history. What may surprise you, however, is that this award has at last reconciled me to the fact that geologists, not historians, are the natural audience for my research.

Years ago, I had persuaded myself that the history of science could serve to bring together C P Snow's “two cultures”, and I set out as a missionary. I would surreptitiously teach some science to non-scientists, showing them that the study of nature is but one aspect of human history. The plan failed, as it has failed at American universities where historians of science, not welcome among historians, have formed their own academic departments. At Vassar my students came chiefly from the science departments, while my colleagues regarded me as a historian of the French Revolution.

Like most historians of science, I began as a science student, an undergraduate physicist who unthinkingly absorbed the notion that proper science was perforce expressed mathematically. The human dimension, so to speak, came in a history of science class where I found I could study what lay behind the polished results in scientific publications. In that class, too, I discovered in geology a science not wholly mathematized; despite the best efforts of Charles Lyell and his successors, I happily abandoned physics.

In conclusion, I shall not attempt to formulate any profound reflections, but only a glimpse of my current project: an examination of early “catastrophism”. Although geologists have recently been reconsidering the possible role of catastrophes, my interest stems from my own long-standing concern with Noah's Flood and the vocabulary of geological “revolutions”. It has also come to my attention that some French scientists, as early as the 1790s, were accusing their predecessors of being catastrophists. Clearly, the word signified bad science, perhaps prompted by religious bias. But it also could be meaningless polemic, for in one striking case the accusation was directed against a geologist who had rejected use of the Flood and had described his fossil ferns as deposited so gently that they were laid out “as if they had been mounted”.

In due time, I hope to produce a study of the second half of the Eighteenth Century, with a focus on questions of geological dynamics, and some examination of geology and religion. I hope the results – whatever they may be! – will be of interest to members of this Society.

Wollaston Fund – Dr David Graham Pearson

The Wollaston Fund of the Geological Society is awarded this year to Dr Graham Pearson of the university of Durham.

Graham Pearson’s work centres on understanding the formation of the deep “keels” beneath ancient continents and the formation of the earliest continental nuclei, and is recognised worldwide for his pioneering work in the field of Platinum Group Element and rhenium – osmium isotope geochemistry. Using this technique he has been able to date lithospheric peridotite and eclogite xenolith suites hosted in kimberlites.

He is also interested in the age of diamonds, using his rhenium-osmium isotopes to date syngenetic sulphide inclusions. These studies constrain our models for the composition and role of deep mantle fluids. His work has also led him to study ore formation processes in general. David’s work has also extended into platinum-bearing anti-cancer drugs, on which he works in collaboration with the Cancer Research Group at Newcastle University Medical School.

Graham Pearson, I am delighted to make you the recipient of the 2003 Wollaston Fund of the Geological Society of London.

Distinguished Service Award – Mr Christopher King

I am delighted to give the Society’s Distinguished Service Award for 2003 to Chris King of Keele University.

Chris King has an international reputation in geoscience education and is its foremost representative in the UK today. He is currently chair of the International Geoscience Education Organisation and has made presentations all over the world including Australia and New Zealand, the Philippines and Japan as well as Europe and the USA.

His work is of particular importance because Keele University is one of only two institutions in the UK that offer initial teacher training in Earth science as part of secondary school science. The new Earth Science Education Unit, of which Chris is Director, provides a national centre for teaching expertise and carries out research into the delivery of Earth science education. It also spearheads the Continuing Professional Development of science teachers, most of whom have no background in Earth science, to help them deliver the Earth science components of the National Curriculum with greater accuracy and confidence.

Chris King, the world of Earth science Education not only needs more people like you; it desperately needs more people like those whose formation as effective teachers of Earth science your work promotes. You are a most worthy recipient of this Society’s Distinguished Service Award.