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2004 Awards: Citations, Replies


Wollaston Medal – Geoffrey Eglinton

The Wollaston Medal, the Society’s highest honour, first issued to William Smith in 1831, goes this year to Professor Geoffrey Eglinton FRS of the University of Bristol.

Geoff Eglinton is one of the founding fathers of modern organic geochemistry and is responsible for many of the geochemical tools and concepts that Earth scientists today take for granted. His work has been characterised by three main elements – insight into big problems of global significance, the ability to bridge widely separate disciplines and the skill to assemble groups of key scientists to solve the problems. His work has been of inestimable academic and practical value – for example, the invention of the petroleum geochemical biomarker maturity and facies assessment approach was a direct result of Geoff’s pioneering work. Without it, modern petroleum biomarker geochemistry simply would not exist. Geoff and his colleagues have also given to Earth science molecular yardsticks for palaeoclimate study.

Geoff Eglinton, you are indeed a worthy successor to all those who have previously won the Society’s senior medal.

Prof. Eglinton replied:

President, Fellows of the Society, ladies and gentlemen,

I am deeply honoured by the award of the Wollaston medal for 2004. If I may, I should like to accept it on behalf of James Maxwell and my Bristol co-workers and the many organic geochemists worldwide whose work is really being recognised by this award. Our community has grown markedly over the last 50 years as molecular techniques have successfully opened up the detailed fate of carbon in the geosphere. For example, in the UK alone, some 80 PhDs were granted at Bristol since we started the Organic Geochemistry Unit in 1968 while at the other major centre in Newcastle the NRG has awarded some sixty PhDs.

It is a great pleasure to be regarded as somewhat of a geologist! You see, way back around 1950, I trained first as a synthetic organic chemist, trying to make rather unstable acetylene compounds in the laboratory. However, over the intervening years I have managed to escape from the lab and explore aspects of the natural environment, acquiring meanwhile useful items of disguise in the form of some limited understanding of the Earth sciences. For example, in the 1960s I took evening classes in geology at the feet of Ian Rolfe at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. So, standing in front of you now I feel something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing!

How did this gradual makeover occur? Well, of course it's had a lot to do with being able to seek advice and collaboration from expert Earth scientists such as Bill Fyfe when we were both in California, Michael Sarnthein in Germany and Derek Briggs at Bristol.

But, from the beginning, it has been the traditional natural history approach that has really intrigued me with its beguiling combination of observation, sample collection and classification, data acquisition and unlimited scope for interpretation. No single disciplinary methodology really suffices to address earth science problems, which makes things more challenging - and more fun.

Anyway, the outcome of using molecular analysis to study organic matter in the geosphere has been to provide a new and independent view of the record of life on this planet. And the future is bright, with the intriguing possibility of being able to link the molecular and fossil records with the genomic systematics of present day organisms. So, as a molecular geochemist, I find myself in distinguished 'chemical' company in the Wollaston succession, in the shadow of such masters as Victor Goldschmidt (1944), Gerry Wasserburg (1985) and Bill Fyfe (2000). Indeed, I would like to think that this year's medal celebrates the final acceptance of the concept of carbon- based molecules as important and useful components of the geosphere, on a par with those already established mainstays - the elements and their isotopic abundances, the minerals and the fossils. I thank the Geological Society most warmly for this award.

Lyell Medal – Dianne Edwards CBE FRS

The Lyell Medal of the Geological Society goes this year to Professor Dianne Edwards of the University of Cardiff.

Dianne Edwards has been working for the past 40 years on one of the greatest evolutionary stories – the colonisation of the land by plants. Her magnificent preparatory work has helped her to show how some of the earliest land plants were indeed truly vascular. Much of her work has been done close to home, in Wales and the Welsh Borderland; however she has also collaborated with workers all over the world in amassing her publication list of over 125 papers as groundbreaking in their own way as the first land plants you have brought to light.

Dianne, your reputation is truly worldwide, and your work a permanent monument that must be incorporated into all scenarios of terrestrialisation. It is my great pleasure to give you – and the Society’s honour for you to accept – the Lyell Medal.

Prof. Edwards replied:

As a botanist it is a particular pleasure to be so honoured by my colleagues in the geological community - although considering the age of my geological interests, I look with some envy at the medal commemorating the “King of Siluria”.

The year 2004 is a momentous anniversary year for me: it is exactly 40 years since my proposed PhD supervisor in Cambridge, the plant morphologist, Dr K R Sporne, warned me that he doubted I should find sufficient material in the British Old Red Sandstone to complete a PhD thesis (it's very satisfying that well within four years I had done this and also produced a son). In my final year as an undergraduate in Cambridge I had been inspired, not by the series of incredibly turgid lectures in palaeobotany and plant diversity in the Botany School nor by the tedium of the Sedgwick's palaeontology, but by a single seminar given by Prof. Harlan Parker Banks of Cornell University on the Lower Devonian plants of the Gaspé (later to be visited on my honeymoon). My second choice, plant biochemistry, was abandoned (on reflection perhaps not unexpectedly) because while still at school as a member of the Swansea Field Naturalists, I had been introduced to the geological glories of the Brecon Beacons by one T R Owen. I had no idea then of the great distinction of this man, with his persuasive Welsh accent and waving arms - although at the time I appreciated his patience and later his help in locating some of the classical Old Red Sandstone localities.

I spent the first year of my PhD at Cornell University - greatly benefiting from being part of a very active research group and acquiring a wide range of techniques - particularly those dealing with pyrite permineralisations - a preservational type I returned to experimentally more recently. Pyrite allows preservation of woody tissues, and thus insight into the detailed architecture of water transporting cells. This brings me to my greatest love - plant anatomy. It has been an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to study the cellular detail of the earliest land plants - the very innovations that resulted in the transformation of our planet - the greening of Earth.

The fossils themselves are tantalisingly simple - merely collections of leafless twigs, but the analysis of a number of fossilisation types using a variety of techniques - the most important undoubtedly being scanning electron microscopy - shows plants of astonishing sophistication at the cellular level. Such information results in assessment of affinity and phylogenetic relations, but equally important, the gaining of an understanding of the ways the plants functioned in stressful environments - palaeoecophysiology - and their reproductive biology. In studies that have predated the exhortations of our paymasters (the research councils) to pursue superior interdisciplinary research I have studied early terrestrial ecosystems with palaeozoologists, geochemical cycles with microbiologists, the development of early soils with palaeopedologists and the evolution of the atmosphere with geochemists. In short, I have become an expert on jumping on bandwagons, but at the same time always insistent on the importance of fundamental research as a starting block.

It is said that behind every successful man is a long-suffering woman - and what small advances I have achieved would not have been possible over the last 20 years without the expert assistance of my technician, Lindsey Axe - and in earlier years, Val Rose and Catherine Rogerson. It is also a great pleasure to acknowledge the palynological wisdom and friendship of John Richardson. We celebrated our 40 years together with a paper I originally called “swan song” - but was modified by the editor into Silurian and Lower Devonian Plant Assemblages from the Anglo-Welsh Basin: a Palaeobotanical and Palynological Synthesis. The volume on the Anglo-Welsh basin will also contain many contributions from other “Friends of the Devonian” who have always been patient and unstinting with geological advice to such a geological ignoramus. The same could be said of the Ludlow Research Group.

And finally, I must say that the palaeobotanical community in the UK, although small, is vibrant and world-class. It includes some of my own students who have proved more talented than I. They deserve a secure and well-funded future. Contrary to the conclusions of some of our funders, we still have a lot to learn about the fundamental nature of plants of the past - and without such information it will be impossible to address interdisciplinary questions as diverse as assessing quantitative aspects of past climate change to calibrating molecular clocks.

In expressing gratitude to the President and officers of the Geological Society for the award of the Lyell medal, I also thank them for recognising my discipline as a significant part of Earth Sciences.

Murchison Medal – Philip England

This year’s Murchison Medal goes to Professor Philip England of the University of Oxford.

Philip England is one of the UK’s most prominent geologists whose work has concentrated on continental deformation and its relationship to metamorphism. Today Philip is at the forefront of monitoring continental deformation in active zones, and is continuing to produce new insights into this classic geological problem.

Philip England, please accept this award with our deepest appreciation of your pioneering work.

Philip England was not able to accept the award in person owing to a family bereavement.

William Smith Medal – Jeffrey Hedenquist

This year’s William Smith Medal for contributions to applied geology is awarded to Jeffrey Hedenquist of the University of Colorado.

Jeffrey Hedenquist has been a truly outstanding leader in the field of magmatic hydrothermal systems, their geothermal potential and their ore deposits. He has successfully operated within academia, industry and government, and been a prolific educator and communicator.

Jeffrey Hedenquist, the Society is honoured that you should accept the William Smith Medal.

Jeffrey Hedenquist replied:

President, Fellows of the Geological Society, ladies, and gentlemen,

I am pleased to accept the William Smith Medal of the Geological Society on behalf of numerous colleagues active in the science of economic geology applied to the exploration and development of mineral resources. Such resources are an essential part of the basis of all economies, and thus I am glad that the Society has chosen to recognise and honour my discipline with such a prestigious award, named after one of the giants of geological study, both fundamental and applied.

While working with the geological surveys of three governments I have been extremely fortunate to receive strong research support, and I believe that some of these research findings are now being applied - at least by myself, in my own work with industry. However, as many of you appreciate, times have changed. Today, within government institutes and academia, it is far more difficult to conduct the fundamental studies that are necessary to underpin the advances in applied geology that will be seen a decade later. We are still reaping the benefit of past research investment, but I am concerned that this will be less the case in the coming years. We need a concerted effort from all three sectors, government, industry, and academia, to better integrate our science, and to address this question of research support, as well as education and training of
professionals for an effective exploration industry, within which there is now a shortage.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank a few of the many colleagues who have contributed to my professional growth, including Edwin Roedder, my first role model, plus numerous other scientists in the US Geological Survey. I moved to New Zealand in 1979 to work with Richard Henley, who had a major influence on my career. He, Patrick Browne and Werner Giggenbach, as well as others, opened my eyes to active hydrothermal systems and how they help us to better understand ore deposits; both how and where they form. Their mentorship has been invaluable. A decade later Yukihiro Matsuhisa invited me to Japan, and provided a tremendous research environment for worldwide research over the next 10 years, along with several close colleagues. Over the years I have also been fortunate to collaborate with and learn from many younger geologists, postdocs, and students. Six years ago I decided to apply my research background to the exploration for mineral resources. Richard Sillitoe and Noel White provided wise counsel then, as they have done for some time. This period working with colleagues in industry has been very rewarding, a good choice. Finally, I acknowledge my wife, Keiko Hattori, professor of geochemistry in Ottawa, who has encouraged me to do many things that I would not otherwise have undertaken. Thank you.

Coke Medal – Anthony Fallick

The winner of the first of our Coke Medals for 2003 is Dr Anthony Fallick of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, Glasgow.

Tony Fallick has achieved prominence through his work in applying stable isotopes in Earth, environmental and life sciences. In over 300 papers in a wide range of high quality journals, Tony has published on the genesis and evolution of ore bodies, diagenetic processes in sedimentary sequences and the evolution of hydrocarbon reservoirs, fluid/rock interaction, crustal evolution, environmental issues and biogeochemical applications of stable isotope analysis. Tony has also been a staunch supporter of the wider geological community through his editorial work, leadership and concern for young scientists.

Tony Fallick, please accept this award in recognition of your outstanding work.

Tony Fallick replied extempore.

Coke Medal – Haraldur Sigurdsson

The other Coke Medal this year is awarded to Professor Haraldur Sigurdsson of the University of Rhode Island.

Haraldur Sigurdsson is an internationally renowned volcanologist whose work has been pivotal in reconstructing major historical eruptions such as Krakatoa and Vesuvius, as well as Tambora in 1815, the year William Smith produced the first Geological Map of Great Britain. His work has been of major importance to the understanding not only of volcanoes, but of archaeology as well. He has highlighted the atmospheric importance of sulphur yield from volcanoes, especially in climatic responses. He has also published a scholarly work on the history of volcanology, and compiled as Editor in Chief the monumental Encyclopaedia of Volcanoes.

Haraldur Sigurdsson, please accept with our thanks the Coke Medal of the Geological Society of London

Haraldur Sigurdsson replied:

President, Fellows of the Geological Society, ladies, and gentlemen,

I thank the Geological Society and its members for this great honour, which is particularly dear to me because of my long association with Earth science in the British Isles.

When I left Iceland in 1962, determined to seek a Geology degree in an English speaking foreign country, we were actually at war: the Cod War between Britain and Iceland! So, I decided to go to Northern Ireland, where I could study the Earth and its volcanism in the familiar type of terrain that characterises the Antrim Plateau basalts. After my first undergraduate year at Queens University in Belfast, I had the temerity to write to George P L Walker, and ask him to allow me to accompany him in the field in Iceland that summer. It was an incredible experience for a young student to observe and learn from the person who is perhaps the best field geologist that has ever worked in volcanology. George not only introduced me to rigorous field practice, but also to a quantitative way of looking at geologic problems.

After Belfast, it was time to go to graduate school and continue with my fascination with igneous petrology and volcanism. It was Malcolm Brown who became my mentor at Durham University, and I completed my PhD thesis on the generation of Icelandic rhyolites under his supervision.

As fate would have it, I did not end up in Iceland with my newfound PhD degree, but rather at the University of the West Indies, where I worked on monitoring and surveillance of the activity in the Lesser Antilles volcanic arc. For a person with interest in volcanism, it was perhaps the ideal rounding off in my field experience, giving me a close look at subduction zone volcanism, in addition to my hot-spot and ridge volcanism exposure in Iceland.

Ever since my early days in Iceland, I had a great interest in submarine and mid-ocean ridge volcanism, and this brought me to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island in 1974, where I have remained ever since. It was here that I began the collaboration with Stephen Sparks, that has been perhaps the most stimulating period of my career.

In later years, as I have explored the history of the science of volcanology, I have made friends with long-deceased British geologists, who have become my latter-day heroes. It was at the very beginning of the 19th Century that the British scientists John Playfair, George Poulett-Scrope and William Hopkins laid the foundations for our understanding of the processes that bring about melting in the Earth and the formation of magmas.

Aberconway Medal – Jeremy Giles

The Aberconway Medal of the Geological Society goes this year to Jeremy Giles of the British Geological Survey.

Jeremy Giles is a Geoscience Information Specialist, who in 2000 was appointed BGS’s first ever Information Manager, responsible for all the information managed by BGS on behalf of the nation. His database work has underpinned the creation of the Digital Geological Map of Great Britain and the BGS Lithostratigraphic Lexicon and the BGS rock Classification Scheme. Britain has thus become the first country in the world to be able to boast a 1;50,000 conprehensive digital geological map.

Jeremy Giles, your work has made a revolutionary contribution to geoscience not only in the UK, but beyond, where it is internationally recognised. I am pleased to award you the Society’s Aberconway Medal.

Jeremy Giles replied:

President, Fellows of the Geological Society, ladies, and gentlemen,

Thank you, Sir Mark, for your kind words. It is a great honour to receive the recognition of the Society for the work that I have been doing for the past 15 years. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the British Geological Survey for giving me the opportunity to take part in such interesting and challenging work.

The first jobs that I did in BGS, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, involved a lot of manual manipulation of data, much of it spatial. It was while I was mapping the Wakefield Sheet (Sheet 78 for those of you familiar with the BGS catalogue) that I started to try and use computing methods to understand the geology. Wakefield is in the heart of the Yorkshire-Derbyshire Coalfield and is both intensively investigated by boreholes and extensively undermined at numerous levels. The resulting three-dimensional data array was hard to visualise and mine for knowledge. Models made from hand coloured drinking straws, though great fun to create, fail to convey the complexity of the data available.

Having become completely addicted to the computing aspects of the work I decided, in the late I980s, to move into computing, and the fascinating work of trying to model geological information in relational databases. I worked as part of a team building BGS’s first Digital Map Production System having the responsibility for understanding the nature of information represented on a geological map. The complex information projected onto the plane of the map is both rich and diverse but it is also confusing and frustrating for the users of those maps. Geologists acquire a wealth of three-dimensional information with a range of associated parameters, much of which is then lost, as far as most users are concerned, in the process of representing the information on the map.

By using databases the full range of the information could be captured, preserved, managed and distributed in the most appropriate manner. The map need now only display the information required to clarify the depiction of the geology. The associated data and other parameters could be published separately as maps describing specific themes. Key supporting information can also be published on the web such as the BGS Lexicon and the BGS Rock Classification Scheme.

This work and similar initiatives elsewhere in BGS developed into the Information Programme, which was created in April 2000. This had the aim of managing all aspects of the BGS information in a holistic manner. The result has been the revitalisation of the National Geoscience Data Centre and a clear understanding of the information BGS manages and its potential for wealth creation in Great Britain.

Allow me to end by re-iterating my sincere thanks to the Geological Society, and to those who nominated me. I find it humbling to receive this award, especially when I look at some of the recipients of this medal in the past.

RH Worth Prize – Christopher Darmon

The RH Worth Prize of the Society is awarded this year to Christopher Darmon.

Christopher Darmon set up – and has edited since its inception – the popular free magazine Down to Earth. This publication has played an important role in serving the amateur geological community, which this prize principally recognises. Chris is also an indefatigable leader of field excursions, and has initiated probably thousands of young people in the joys of field geology. He has been a teacher at Chaucer Comprehensive School, taught WEA classes for 15 years. In 1975 Chris set up the educational charity Nationwide Geology Club to promote fieldwork, particularly among young people. It continues to this day.

Chris Darmon, please accept for this outstanding work the RH Worth Prize of the Geological Society of London.

Chris Darmon replied extempore.

Distinguished Service Award – Brian Marker

I am delighted to give the Society's Distinguished Service Award for 2003 to Dr Brian Marker.

Brian Marker has put strong personal effort into raising awareness of Earth science in Government and the civil service. Since the mid-1970s, he has dealt with a wide range of aspects of applied geology including minerals and waste planning, urban geoscience, hazards and environmental mapping. Through his work at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and its predecessor Departments, he has been a major force behind the drive to encourage local authorities in England to include earth science considerations in the planning process. He has actively carried similar messages to international audiences through IAEG and IUGS and spent many years teaching adult evening classes because of his strong view that geoscientists should engage more with the general public.

Brian Marker, it is my pleasure to dedicate this year's Distinguished Service Award to your many years of effective promotion of Earth science in the corridors of power.

Wollaston Fund – Martin Hand

The Wollaston Fund goes this year to one of the brightest multidisciplinary scientists of his generation – Dr Martin Hand of the University of Adelaide, for his work on the integration of metamorphic petrology, structural geology, geochronology, basin evolution studies and numerical modelling.

Lyell Fund – Michal Kucera

The Lyell Fund goes this year to Dr Michal Kucera (Royal Holloway, University of London) for his outstandingly successful work on planktonic foraminifera, especially their evolution and use as palaeoproxies in palaeoclimatic reconstruction.

Murchison Fund – Kenneth McCaffrey

The Murchison Fund is awarded to Dr Kenneth McCaffrey (University of Durham) for his considerable and innovative contribution to granite emplacement studies, the problems of initiation and growth of igneous intrusions and the granite system in general. He has also contributed to our understanding of the tectonic evolution of mountain belts and of fault and fracture evolution in crustal rocks

William Smith Fund – Michael Rivett

The William Smith Fund is awarded to Dr Michael Rivett (School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham) for his pioneering work on the organic contamination of urban aquifers, controlled field experiments on fate and transport of chlorinated solvents at the Borden research site in Canada and the impact of contaminated land on groundwater and surface waters. His career was founded upon a BA in Chemistry (Oxford) and a PhD in urban contaminant hydrogeology at the University of Birmingham. He went on to complete a four-year postdoctoral study at the University of Waterloo, Canada on the "Solvents-in-Groundwater" research programme and then returned to the LJK to work as a hydrogeologist for the Environment Agency for three years before taking up a lectureship at the University of Birmingham in 1997.