The Geographer Spring 2009 - Page 2

The The Geographer Chairman’s Introduction W elcome to another busy year for your Society, and welcome to a new-look newsletter (formerly GeogScot) – everyone has worked hard to bring a modern ‘feel’ to this publication, and we hope you like it. The refreshing of the newsletter is just one of a number of initiatives that we are developing this year, now that we are established in our new public-facing headquarters in Perth. Geography is perhaps more relevant and important now than it has ever been. Globally, our most pressing concerns are the well-being of our people and communities, the conservation of our landscapes and ecosystems, and the sustainability of our planet and resources. Particularly in these difficult economic times, we need to maximise awareness and understanding of geography across all sectors of society, and to increase our public profile and our appeal to a greater audience. We hope that the changes we are planning will allow the Society to thrive in the 21st century, without losing sight of our remarkable heritage. As Michael Palin has said,“Geography is the subject which holds the key to our future.” I cannot emphasise enough how much the Society both values and relies on the continuing efforts of its volunteers, and we will be providing further opportunities for members to help the Society in a number of ways. Barrie Brown RSGS, Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU tel: 01738 455050 email: Palin Talk - Around the World in an Evening M ichael Palin was enthusiastically received at his sell-out talk in Edinburgh in March, run in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Geography. Now famous for his long distance travels, he related a host of fascinating, funny and informative tales from around the globe, illustrated by some wonderful photographs from 20 years of travel. It is 100 years since RSGS helped establish the first Chair of Geography in a Scottish University, and Mr Palin was a popular choice of speaker and a highlight in the year-long series of centenary events. Lord Lindsay, the RSGS President, awarded the RSGS Livingstone Medal to Mr Palin, along with his Fellowship of the Society, for services to the promotion of geography. Our thanks are due to Professor Withers and Cathy Campbell of the University of Edinburgh who, together with the RSGS Edinburgh Committee, put so much time and effort into making the evening such a success. The event was kindly sponsored by Scottish Power. RSGS Website We’re delighted to say that our website has recently been upgraded to better match the needs of members and other users. It is now easier to use, with a logical structure and more up-to-date content. A lot of work has also been done to ensure that the site appears as high as possible in Google rankings, to raise our profile among non-members. We will continue to develop the site, and hope that you will increasingly find it a valuable source of information about the work of the Society. Our grateful thanks go to Bruce Gittings of the University of Edinburgh and Phil Taylor of Beats Design for all their hard work in making this possible. If you haven’t already, then please take a look through the new site at Charity registered in Scotland no SC015599 The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the RSGS. RSGS – Making Connections between People, Places & the Planet Geographer 1 Spring 2009 NEWS People • Places • Planet Scottish Geographical Medal The RSGS’s Scottish Geographical Medal is our most prestigious award – an equivalent of a Scottish Nobel Prize for Geography. It is awarded only for conspicuous merit and a performance of world wide repute. Professor Nigel Thrift, one of the world’s most highly regarded human geographers and one of the top five most-cited geographers in the world, received only the fortieth such award in more than a century. in 1909 that the RSGS helped Glasgow establish its first Chair of Geography. The first recipient of the Scottish Geographical Medal (or Gold Medal as it used to be called), in 1890, was HM Stanley, the man who ‘found’ David Livingstone. Other recipients have included Captain Roald Amundsen, William Speirs Bruce, Hugh Robert Mill, Vivian Fuchs, James Geikie and many more leading contributors of their age. “Professor Thrift is a world leading innovating geographer, and was a unanimous choice for this highly prestigious award.” Fittingly, Professor Thrift received his Scottish Geographical Medal on 5th March at the University of Glasgow, where he has acted as an external examiner for many years. Equally fittingly, the University of Glasgow’s Geography Department celebrates its centen ary this year, as it was RSGS’s Awards Committee Chair, Professor Alison McCleery, was enthusiastic about Professor Thrift and the need for promoting geography, “Professor Thrift is a world leading innovating geographer, and was a unanimous choice for this highly prestigious award. We are delighted that he agreed to come and give this talk in Glasgow.” Professor Nigel Thrift is currently the ViceChancellor of the University of Warwick. He was previously Head of the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Oxford. He is the author, co-author and editor of 36 books, and has written journal articles, essays and book chapters which number in the hundreds. Hayden Lorimer, a senior lecturer at Glasgow University, knows Professor Thrift well and explained, “It is extremely difficult to encapsulate or to circumscribe the scope of Nigel Thrift’s academic interests. Indeed, the sheer diversity and great vitality of his thinking should be regarded as defining features.” Prof Nigel Thrift receives the Scottish Geographical Medal from RSGS ViceChair Bruce Gittings. In The Footsteps Of Shackleton - 920 Miles To The Heart Of The Antarctic For the Edwardians, conquering the South Pole was the equivalent of being the first to walk on the surface of the moon. It seemed impossible. But on 9th January 1909 Ernest Shackleton, a former RSGS director, planted Queen Alexandra’s Union Jack at S88° 23´ E162´ - a point just 97 miles from their goal. He and his indomitable team had just completed an astonishing journey of 830 miles that had pioneered a route right to the heart of the Antarctic; but concerned only with the welfare of his men, Shackleton took the momentous decision to stop and return back the way they had just come. Exactly 100 years later, direct descendants of the original team retraced the same journey and in the centenary year, finished off the last 97 miles and stood at the South Pole to honour the astonishing achievement of their forebears. At an RSGS talk on 16th May 2009, in Perth, Henry Worsley, leader of the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition, will describe how he and his team mates retraced the route across the Ross Ice Shelf, up the Beardmore Glacier and onto the Polar Plateau to the South Pole; a journey lasting 66 days and covering 920 miles of the Antarctic continent. His lecture will draw extensively upon Shackleton’s diary, juxtaposed with the modern day journey, and be illustrated with photographs taken on both expeditions. Picture: Henry Worsley Extra Talk in Perth on 16th May Please Contact RSGS HQ