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Birthday presence

Geoscientist 17.9 September 2007

Paul Henderson, the Bicentennial Celebrations' guiding light, gets geared up for the final assault on mount improbable.

Napoleon and Russia were giving Britain a hard time but despite this 13 prescient men took the improbable step of forming our Geological Society 200 years ago. We have been having a grand time thanks to them. Our Bicentenary Year is now two thirds through its course and has already seen a fine array of celebratory activities. Maps have been restored and unveiled, public lectures given to packed houses, special publications produced (including one on the history of our Society) wine and geology have been tasted and seen, collaborations established with other societies and special scientific meetings held, Local Heroes celebrated and saluted, and even 4567 balloons launched – one for every million years of Earth history. We have our Society’s bicentenary beer and there is the chance to wear the Society’s fleece jacket.

One third still to go! Our published programme shows that it will be just as active – with our major International Conference, field excursions, more public lectures, a celebratory dinner on our birthday, and numerous regional and associated events including a meeting organised by the History of Geology Group to celebrate the achievements of our Society since its founding.

The Conference is something of a new step for the Society; for it will not only encompass presentations on the scientific achievements of yesterday and today, but will also deal with the broader social and economic impacts of work based on our discipline. It will appeal to Earth scientists who hold an interest in the bigger picture, as well as others who are involved one way or another in policy formulation and implementation surrounding issues such as climate change, resource availability and sustainable development.

The Bicentenary has been a wonderful opportunity to help gain support for the new initiatives as well as for major projects that otherwise would be very difficult to fund. Thanks to significant sponsorship and donations we now have refurbished apartments and a new Lyell Centre with its associated Lyell Collection, and much more besides. The sponsorship has been a major factor in extending our outreach and gaining greater recognition of the important role the Earth sciences play in the world today.

Planning the Bicentenary Year has been interesting and pleasurable as well as hard work for many. We started over three years ago and it is good to see the early ideas and efforts bearing fruit. The Bicentenary Funding Group under Mark Moody-Stuart’s chairmanship has just finished its task - we owe its members many thanks for their achievements, and also the donors and sponsors for their support. The Society’s staff and other organising groups have contributed a huge amount to making our celebrations as good as they are and although their work is not yet finished I am sure we can thank them now for making the year a memorable and successful one.

I wish us all an enjoyable and stimulating continuation of our Bicentenary Celebrations – please come and share it.