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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) honours top geographers

By Eric Van Rees - 19th May 2020 - 06:36

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.

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