Home News 2020 medal and award recipients announced

2020 medal and award recipients announced

This year our medals and awards recognise 22 different people or organisations for their outstanding contributions to geographical research, fieldwork and teaching, and public engagement.

The internationally renowned geomorphologist, Professor Heather Viles and former Chief Technology Advocate at Google, Michael Jones, have been awarded the Society’s two Royal Medals. The Royal Medals are 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 received the 2020 Founder’s Medal for her excellence in establishing the field of biogeomorphology. Baroness Lynda Chalker, President of the Society, 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.”

The 2020 Patron’s Medal has been awarded to Michael Jones 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.”

Thank you to all Fellows and members who nominated individuals for our awards this year.

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:

Victoria Medal

  • Professor Jonathan Rigg For long-term and influential research in development geography focusing on South East Asia

Busk Medal

  • 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

Murchison Award

  • Professor Peter Kraftl For research that has significantly contributed to social and cultural geographies

Back Award

  • 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

Ness Award

  • 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

Area Prize

  • Dr Menusha De Silva For the best article in the journal by a new researcher

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’

Geographical Award

  • 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

  • Andy Eavis
  • Professor Bojie Fu
  • Clare Hadley
  • Michael Hand