Our medals and awards have long recognised the outstanding achievements of geographers, including eminent scientists, school teachers, early career researchers and those involved in policy making. Neil Armstrong, Sir David Attenborough, Sylvia Earle, Simon King, Neil Oliver, Professor Lord Nicholas Stern and Professor Edward O Wilson are among the recipients.
From its foundation, the Society received an annual grant of 50 guineas from the reigning monarch to be awarded with royal approval 'for the encouragement and promotion of geographical science and discovery'. Initially the award was given in money, then from 1836-38 as a Royal Medal.
In 1839, it was decided to divide the award and since then we have awarded two medals: the Patron's Medal and the Founder's Medal. Both are of equal value and merit.
The Royal Medals were originally made in fine gold (except during the years 1918-21 when they were made in bronze), but since 1975 they have been made in silver gilt. Medals were not awarded in the years 1850, 1851, 1855, 1943 and 1944.
The Founder's Medal
Designed by W Wyon, the Founder's Medal is engraved with the recipient's name and the date of the award. One side of the medal displays the head of King William IV and on the reverse is the figure of Minerva standing in front of a globe, holding a wreath and a scroll. A sextant and other surveying instruments lay at her feet.
The Patron's Medal
Designed by W Wyon (and subsequently A Wyon and then AG Wyon), the Patron's Medal is engraved with the recipient's name and the date of the award. One side of the medal displays the head of young Queen Victoria and on the reverse is the figure of Minerva as on the Founder's Medal.
The heads of Edward VII, King George V, Edward VIII, George VI, young head of Elizabeth II have also appeared on the medal.
Take a look at our video to learn more about the Society's medals and awards, or for more information about their history and past recipients, please consult The Geographical Journal.