The internationally renowned geomorphologist, Professor Heather Viles and former Chief Technology Advocate at Google, Michael Jones, 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 Her Majesty The Queen, 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, Professor Diana Liverman and Lindsey Hilsum.
Professor Heather Viles is awarded the 2020 Founder’s Medal for her excellence in establishing the field of biogeomorphology.
Baroness Lynda Chalker, President of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), said: “Professor Viles has been instrumental in establishing the field of biogeomorphology and the development of nature-based solutions for heritage conservation. Her quality research has made significant contributions on topics from extreme landscape evolution to building stone conservation, yet her commitment to the advancement of geographical science is also demonstrated by her leadership.
Her championing and support of the discipline among students, academic peers, and the wider public are why Heather is a worthy recipient of the Society’s highest recognition.”
Professor Viles said: “I am delighted and amazed to receive this award and thank everyone who has helped, and continues to help me, in my geographical journey.”
Michael Jones receives the 2020 Patron’s Medal for his contribution to the development of geospatial information.
Baroness Chalker said: “Michael Jones is a role model for future generations of geographers. From his beginnings as a software engineer, inventing and filing his own patents, through to his role as Google’s Chief Technology Advocate, his inspiring career trajectory is charted by his vision to redefine mapping from static lines and symbols to an interactive geographical web of context and information. It’s hard to overstate the importance that Google Earth and Google Maps has had on the public worldwide and how Michael’s pioneering work has democratised and popularised cartography and spatial awareness. Today we recognise his extraordinary contribution and his continued advocacy for the benefits of geography. He whole heartedly deserves the Society’s highest recognition.”
Michael Jones said: “This recognition is a signal honour for an idea that started in my head and which, through the work of many, resulted in the Google Earth used by billions of people around the world. On behalf of colleagues who laboured to make this dream of Earth and Maps a reality, and in full credit to the inspiring attainments of all who have come before us in the quest to better understand the Earth, I can only say that the ‘Earth-in-your-hand’ idea has never had a greater friend than the Royal Geographical Society, to whom we humbly offer our gratitude.”
This year the Society’s medals and awards recognise 22 different people or organisations for their outstanding contributions to geography. Among other recipients, photographer Steve McCurry is awarded the Cherry Kearton Medal and Award for his images on interactions between peoples, landscapes and wildlife across the world; Professor Nina Laurie is awarded the Busk Medal for her distinguished contributions in the field of human geography and environmental sustainability and writer Nancy Campbell receives the Ness Award for the popularisation of geography through her poetry and non-fiction writing.
For further media enquiries, including image requests, please contact the Society’s Press Officer, Lucy Preston, on +44 (0)77 1478 3126 or email@example.com
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’ www.rgs.org
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, David Livingstone, Alfred Russel Wallace, Captain R. Scott and more recently Professor Peter Haggett, Dr Sylvia Earle, Professor Diana Liverman, Sir Crispin Tickell and Sir David Attenborough www.rgs.org/medals.
Her Majesty the Queen 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.
The medals and awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Society in London later in the year once social distancing restrictions have been lifted. Photos taken at the ceremony will be available from the RGS-IBG press office on this date. The full list of medals and awards winners is as follows:
Her Majesty the Queen has approved the award of the Royal Medals as follows:
Royal Medal - Founder’s Medal
Professor Heather Viles For her excellence in establishing the field of biogeomorphology
Royal Medal - Patron’s Medal
Michael Jones For his contribution to the development of geospatial information
The Society’s Council has made the following awards:
Professor Jonathan Rigg For long-term and influential research in development geography focusing on South East Asia
Professor Nina Laurie For her contribution to social inclusion, international development and environmental sustainability through fieldwork and research
Cherry Kearton Medal and Award
Steve McCurry For photography that encourages reflection on the interaction with peoples, landscapes and wildlife across the world
Professor Peter Kraftl For research that has significantly contributed to social and cultural geographies
Professor Andy Tatem For leading the development of geospatial and demographic data to assist the work of public policy around the globe
Cuthbert Peek Award
Chris Hill For providing longstanding geospatial expertise to the professional and student communities to understand human impact on the environment
Gill Memorial Award (two awards)
Dr Kimberley Peters For outstanding early career research in human geography
Dr Helena Pimlott-Wilson For outstanding early career research in human geography
Ordnance Survey Awards (two awards)
Emma Metcalfe For excellence in geography education at secondary level
Charity Mhlanga For excellence in geography education at secondary level
Taylor and Francis Award
Dr James Esson For sustained contributions to teaching and learning in higher education, particularly through the RACE Working Group
Nancy Campbell For the popularisation of geography through poetry and non-fiction writing
Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize
Rupert Stuart Smith For the undergraduate geography dissertation judged to be the best in 2019
Dr Menusha De Silva For the best article in the journal by a new researcher (co-authored with Dr Kanchan Gandhi)
Ron Cooke Award
Tenaya Dewsnap-Cooper For her A Level Independent Investigation ‘How does deprivation and public perception vary between Hyde and Gee Cross, Greater Manchester’
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre For facilitating fieldwork and encouraging scientific engagement within the community
Honorary Fellowship in recognition of outstanding support for the Society and geography
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Dr Guy Schumann is a Principal Scientist for Remote Sensing Solutions, Inc. (USA) and RSS-Hydro (Luxembourg).
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