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Royal Medals

Royal Geographical Society honours top geographers with medals and awards
Baby orangutan in Borneo

Founder of Global Canopy, Andrew Mitchell, and influential historical geographer, Professor Felix Driver, 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.

His Majesty the King 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 of equal standing.

The Royal Medals are among the highest honours of their kind in the world. Past recipients include Sir David Attenborough, Dame Fiona Reynolds and Lindsey Hilsum.

Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell is awarded the 2023 Founder’s Medal for his lifetime’s contribution to protecting tropical rainforests and combating climate change.

‘The fact that ‘ecosystem services’, ‘natural capital’ and ‘nature-based solutions’ are now commonplace concepts is in no small part thanks to Andrew’s efforts’, said Nigel Clifford, president of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

‘His tireless work to protect the tropical rainforests of the world means he wholly deserves this honour’, Nigel continued. ‘For over 40 years, Andrew has embraced every opportunity to achieve his objective as he moved from the world of scientific research into policy formation, and subsequently tackling the flows of money powering the deforestation economy.’

‘I am delighted to accept this honour and dedicate it to every leaf, and every branch, and every creature that calls towering trees their home. In the face of deforestation and changing climate, our commitment to preserve these living giants and their diverse ecosystems has become ever more critical. I thank the Royal Geographical Society for catalysing leadership in research and debate on the biggest environmental issues of our time. This award will catalyse me to continue doing the same.’

Founder of Global Canopy

Professor Felix Driver

Professor Felix Driver receives the 2023 Patron’s Medal for his contributions to historical geography and to the Society.
Nigel Clifford said: ‘Felix is one of the most influential human geographers of his generation. A Royal Medal is suitably fitting to recognise such profound achievements. His work has been a catalyst for change across museums, national bodies and cultural institutions, including the Society.’

Nigel added that his enormous contributions to Society projects, such as Hidden histories of exploration and Everest through the lens, brought to the fore the significant involvement of those hidden from history and connected Royal Geographical Society Collections ‘to the pressing issue of the ethics of inclusion and recognition.’

‘He is also a pioneer of new fields and approaches in the geo and environmental humanities, such as plant humanities, mobile museums, indigenous mapping and environmental movements’, Nigel said.

‘It is an honour to receive this award and I am especially grateful to the Society for recognising the value of research in historical geography and for seeking creative and effective ways of reactivating its own remarkable Collections.’

Historical geographer

Contributions to geography recognised

This year, the Society’s medals and awards recognise 23 outstanding people and organisations for their notable contributions to geography.

Among other recipients, photographer and writer team Harriet and Rob Fraser received the Cherry Kearton Medal and Award for their discipline-crossing work that sheds light on the seldom-seen and seldom-heard in the context of rural landscapes.

Jane Rumble OBE is awarded the Back Medal for her commitment to shaping public policy in polar settings, and inspirational academic, Professor Anson Mackay, is awarded the Victoria Medal in recognition of their transformative impact on the discipline of geography.

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