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2023 medal and award recipients announced today

Founder of the Global Canopy Programme, Andrew Mitchell, and influential historical geographer, Professor Felix Driver, have been awarded the Society’s two prestigious Royal Medals. These are part of a series of awards that recognise extraordinary achievement in geographical research, fieldwork, teaching, policy, and public engagement.

The Royal Medals, which are of equal standing, have been approved by His Majesty the King, and are among the highest honours of their kind in the world. They have been presented since the 1830s and past recipients include Sir David Attenborough, Dame Fiona Reynolds and Lindsey Hilsum.

Andrew Mitchell is awarded the 2023 Founder’s Medal for his lifetime’s contribution to protecting tropical rainforests and combating climate change. 

Nigel Clifford, President of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), said: “The fact that ‘ecosystem services’, ‘natural capital’ and ‘nature-based solutions’ are now commonplace concepts is in no small part thanks to Andrew’s efforts. His tireless work to protect the tropical rainforests of the world means he wholly deserves this honour. For over 40 years, Andrew has embraced every opportunity to achieve his objective as he moved from the world of scientific research into policy formation, and subsequently tackling the flows of money powering the deforestation economy.”

Andrew Mitchell said: “I am delighted to accept this honour and dedicate it to every leaf, and every branch, and every creature that calls towering trees their home. In the face of deforestation and changing climate, our commitment to preserve these living giants and their diverse ecosystems has become ever more critical. I thank the Royal Geographical Society for catalysing leadership in research and debate on the biggest environmental issues of our time. This award will catalyse me to continue doing the same.”

Professor Felix Driver receives the 2023 Patron’s Medal for his contributions to historical geography and to the Society.

Nigel Clifford said: “Felix is one of the most influential human geographers of his generation. A Royal Medal is suitably fitting to recognise such profound achievements. His work has been a catalyst for change across museums, national bodies and cultural institutions, including the Society. His enormous contributions to Society projects, such as Hidden histories of exploration and Everest through the lens brought to the fore the significant involvement of those hidden from history and connected our Collections to the pressing issue of the ethics of inclusion and recognition. He is also a pioneer of new fields and approaches in the geo and environmental humanities, such as plant humanities, mobile museums, indigenous mapping, and environmental movements.”

Professor Felix Driver said: “It is an honour to receive this award and I am especially grateful to the Society for recognising the value of research in historical geography and for seeking creative and effective ways of reactivating its own remarkable Collections.”

This year, the Society’s medals and awards recognise 23 outstanding people and organisations for their notable contributions to geography. Among other recipients, photographer and writer team Harriet Fraser and Rob Fraser received the Cherry Kearton Medal and Award for their discipline-crossing work that sheds light on the seldom-seen and seldom-heard in the context of rural landscapes. Jane Rumble OBE is awarded the Back Medal for her commitment to shaping public policy in polar settings, and inspirational academic, Professor Anson Mackay, is awarded the Victoria Medal in recognition of their transformative impact on the discipline of geography.


Notes to editors:

  1. For further media enquiries, including image requests, please contact the Society’s Press Officer, Roisin Tarrant, on +44 (0)77 1478 3126 or 

  1. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830 for 'the advancement of geographical science', today we deliver this objective through developing, supporting and promoting geographical research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, public engagement, and geography input to policy. We aim to foster an understanding and informed enjoyment of our world. We hold the world's largest private geographical collection and provide public access to it. We have a thriving Fellowship and Membership and offer the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer’.

  1. The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s prestigious medals and awards recognise excellence in geographical research and fieldwork, teaching and public engagement. They are presented annually to individuals who have made outstanding achievements. Recipients join a prestigious list that includes Sir Alexander Burnes, Freya Stark, Alfred Russel Wallace, Captain R. Scott and more recently Professor Heather Viles, Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Dr Sylvia Earle, Professor Diana Liverman, Sir Crispin Tickell and Sir David Attenborough

  1. His Majesty the King approves the award of the Royal Medals – the Founder’s Medal and the Patron’s Medal – each year, both of which originated in 1831 as an annual gift of fifty guineas to the Society from King William IV. In 1839, it was agreed this sum should be converted into the two gold medals.

  1. The medals and awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Society in London on Monday 5 June. Photos taken at the ceremony will be available from the Society’s press office on this date.

  1. The full list of medals and awards winners is as follows:


HIS MAJESTY THE KING has approved the award of the ROYAL MEDALS as follows:

Royal Medal - Founder’s Medal

  • Andrew Mitchell For his lifetime’s contribution to protect tropical rainforests and combat climate change

Royal Medal - Patron’s Medal

  • Professor Felix Driver For his contributions to historical geography and to the Society


THE SOCIETY'S COUNCIL has made the following awards:

Victoria Medal

  • Professor Anson Mackay For their transformative impact on the discipline of geography 

Busk Medal

  • Professor Jos Barlow For his outstanding contribution to understanding and conserving the Amazonian tropical rainforests

Cherry Kearton Medal and Award

  • Harriet Fraser and Rob Fraser For their discipline-crossing work, aiming to shed light on the seldom-seen and seldom-heard in the context of rural landscapes 

Murchison Award

  • Professor Noel Castree For substantial and highly influential published work about the relationships between contemporary societies and the physical environment

Back Award

  • Jane Rumble OBE For outstanding commitment to shaping public policy in polar settings

Cuthbert Peek Award

  • Dr Lisa Wedding For contributions to advancing contemporary methods in remote sensing of the environment, with novel applications for marine management 

Gill Memorial Award (two awards)

  • Dr Sarah Bell For exceptional early career research with a remarkable track record of achievement

  • Dr Jovan Scott Lewis For exceptional early career research with a remarkable track record of achievement

Ordnance Survey Awards (two awards)

  • Ellie Barker For excellence in geography education at secondary level

  • Simon Holland For excellence in geography education at secondary level

Taylor and Francis Award

  • Dr Matt Finn For excellence in the practice and promotion of teaching in higher education

Ness Award

  • Alastair Humphreys For his long-standing contributions to promoting a greater understanding of our world and wider public engagement with the outdoors

Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize

  • Roisin Gilloch Boyle For the undergraduate geography dissertation judged to be the best in 2022

Area Prize

  • Rosie Hampton For the best article in the journal by a new researcher: ‘Towards an agenda for oral history and geography: (Re)locating emotion in family narratives of domestic abuse in 1970s East Kilbride’

Ron Cooke Award 

  • Elysia Sanders For her A Level project titled ‘How have glacial and physical post-glacial processes caused variation in the landscape of the Troutbeck Valley’

Geographical Award

  • Endurance22 Expedition For significant impact in inspiring and raising the understanding of geographical expedition and discovery

Honorary Fellowship 

  • Professor Simon Catling In recognition of outstanding support for geography

  • Derry Corey In recognition of outstanding support for the Society

  • Ted Grey In recognition of outstanding support for geography

  • Alasdair Macleod In recognition of outstanding support for the Society and geography