The Palaeontographical Society

The Palaeontographical Society Medal

The biannual award of the Palaeontographical Society Medal is intended to recognise a sustained and important series of contributions to taxonomic and systematic palaeontology. In particular, the Society seeks to honour those who have made an exceptional contribution to the micropalaeontology, palaeobotany, or invertebrate or vertebrate palaeontology of the British Isles, including those who have applied these data to solve problems of palaeogeography, palaeoecology and phylogeny. Recipients will not be limited to palaeontologists based in the British Isles, although it is anticipated that this region will form an important element of their research programme. The Council of the Society welcomes nominations and suggestions for future recipients of the Medal.

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Palaeontographical Society Medal

The Palaeontographical Society Medal

Palaeontographical Society Medal 2016 - Dr Adrian W.A. Rushton

Dr Adrian Rushton

The second recipient, Dr Rushton was presented with the medal at the society's AGM at the Natural History Museum, London, in April 2016.

The citation for the presentation, written by Steve Donovan (Secretary) and read by Paul Barrett (President), is as follows:

Dr Adrian Rushton is to receive the Palaeontographical Society Medal for 2016. Adrian’s name is synonymous with meticulous systematic work of the very highest standards. He has an astonishing command of the global literature, invariably pays great attention to detail with exacting illustrative standards, but enforced with the most deft and gentlemanly of touches. Adrian has been instrumental in maintaining the quality of descriptive paleontological work in the UK, both in his own work and in his role as an editor for the Palaeontographical Society.

Adrian’s career was one of dedicated service to the British Geological Survey, where he always put his position as a team member first. As a consequence of this, his consistent focus has been refining knowledge of British Lower Palaeozoic stratigraphy, with a particular emphasis on the Cambrian of the British Isles, of which he is undoubtedly the world’s leading authority.

His has written a stream of high quality papers, both in Survey publications, but also, notably, in top discipline specific journals, on British Lower Palaeozoic palaeontology and stratigraphy, spanning the widest array of taxa. Although these are often collaborative ventures, no paper on which Adrian’s name appears deviates from his high standards. Virtually all projects that he has worked on have been published – he’s been particularly effective and dedicated in this regard.

Although always grounded in his professional focus on British Lower Palaeozoic stratigraphy, Adrian has consistently looked outward in order to more fully contextualize and interpret British material. His systematic papers display comprehensive mastery of the global literature, and he has published a host of papers based on specimens collected from abroad. Examples include publications on faunas from Jordan, Sweden, Arctic Russia and the Falkland Islands. It is for this reason that Adrian has an outstanding international reputation.

His focus on British Lower Palaeozoic stratigraphy has meant that he has had to work in localities and with material that stratigraphic geologists from other parts of the world would not give a second glance. His ability to collect, prepare and interpret critical information from the most unpromising localities is legendary. This has resulted in substantial novel contributions to British stratigraphy.

Unlike some Survey geologists of his generation, Adrian has been an active member of the wider paleontological community, both nationally and internationally. He is held in the highest regard internationally in matters of Cambrian stratigraphy and palaeontology for the scholarly quality of his work. He has spoken quite frequently in major national and international meetings.

Adrian has always seen his work of equal potential import to both knowledge of the evolution of particular groups (most particularly trilobites and graptolites), and to stratigraphic and tectonic geology. His careful palaeontological work in both the Southern Uplands and in Wales is testament to his abilities in the application of detailed chronostratigraphic constraints to tectonic evolution.

Although Adrian is master of classical techniques of specimen preparation and illustration, he has been remarkably active in applying new methods to further improve understanding of fossil form and relationships. His work was among the first phylogenetic analysis of trilobites to employ dedicated software (in this case PAUP) and he also was innovative in the application of computer-based approaches to the retro-deformation of tectonically strained specimens.

In addition to his exceptional personal scholarship, Adrian has been a leading force in several compilations of knowledge, such as his two works on the Cambrian geology of the UK and the Atlas of Graptolite Types. His editorship and extensive authorship of A Revised Correlation of the Cambrian Rocks in the British Isles provides the definitive account of these rocks that will endure as the standard for years to come.

Although he never worked as a teacher, he has a devoted cadre of apprentices who consider him as the principal guide in systematic palaeontology. Adrian has been an outstanding mentor to younger geologists, guiding them through their earliest publications. 


After the President's encomium, Dr Rushton replied in these terms -

Thank you, President, for your kind words. I am much honoured to be the recipient of the Palaeontographical Society's medal. All my working life I was a palaeontologist and biostratigrapher with the Geological Survey of Great Britain, and from the first I came to appreciate greatly the Society's work, so it is most gratifying to be associated in this way with the Palaeontographical Society. I thank you and the Council for this award.

In my early days, from the early 1960s to the 1980s, when the Survey's Palaeontology Department was at its greatest strength, I and my departmental colleagues were called upon to work on any and all fossiliferous strata then being investigated in the course of surveying the nation's geology. Our work included identifying and interpreting all kinds of fossil faunas and floras throughout the Phanerozoic, but the main emphasis at that time was on marine macrofossils. Although we occasionally made new discoveries that demanded primary research, predictably by far the greater part of our work involved the commoner and generally better-known taxa. When starting on determinative work, we would naturally turn first to the relevant Palaeontographical Society monographs, in which the savants of previous generations had described and illustrated a great part of the core macrofossils known from British rocks through much of the stratigraphical column. I well remember that, when working on rich Ordovician shelly faunas, I constantly kept a dozen or so of the departmental set of monographs, all bound in sober black, on my desk, ready for elucidation of whatever the next slab might reveal; and it was the same for my colleagues working on other projects, on the Carboniferous, say, or the Cretaceous. Some of those monographs might be old and (in part) out of date, but where the descriptions were judicious and scholarly, and the illustrations good, they retained their utility. I guess that at that time the Survey staff were among the heaviest users anywhere of Pal Soc monographs; so valuable were those works, it occurred to me that it would not have been inappropriate for the Survey to have given the Society a medal for services rendered!

As it was, many Survey palaeontologists gave sustained practical support to the Society: several served terms as President or Vice-President; for four decades the post of Secretary was held seriatim by just two Survey officers (Frank Dimes and Steve Tunnicliff); and the task of editing fell to a continuous succession of Survey staff, of whom I was the fifth at least. I personally found editing a satisfying undertaking and enlightening, too - how else might I have learned about cycads or otoliths? - but I also recall the responsibilities: in the days of hot-metal type and collotype plates there were anxious moments concerning co-ordination and quality control during the period when the print-run of the annual volume was being produced. However, all in all I was grateful for the opportunity to edit so many texts and proud to see the resulting volumes take their place on the library shelves (or, better still, to see them pressed into immediate use). The Palaeontographical Society monographs represent an enduring monument to geological endeavour and it has been an honour to have had a hand in extending that monument.




The first recipient of the Palaeontographical Society Medal was Professor Jim Kennedy, who was presented his award at the society's recent AGM in April 2014:


Prof. Jim Kennedy




















William James (“Jim”) Kennedy is the leading authority on Cretaceous ammonites and an internationally recognised expert on the stratigraphy and correlation of Cretaceous marine deposits from all over the world.  After his undergraduate and PhD studies, both completed at King’s College London, Jim moved to the University of Oxford, where he remained for the rest of his career. Initially appointed as a University Lecturer, he marched upward through the academic ranks, becoming Curator of the Earth Sciences collections in the University Museum of Natural History and was later appointed to a personal Chair and the Directorship of the museum. He also had long and productive associations with Wolfson College (of which he was Acting President for a period) and latterly Kellogg College. During a distinguished research career, which shows no sign of abating, Jim has published over 450 academic papers and other articles on subjects ranging from ammonite taxonomy, to biomineralisation, sequence stratigraphy, and mollusc palaeobiology. This output includes two important Palaeontographical Society Monographs, on the ammonites of the Lower Chalk and Plenus Marls and Middle Chalk (co-authored with C. W. Wright), and another monograph is currently in preparation. Jim has worked extensively on material from the UK, but also from much further afield including South Africa, the USA, France, Pakistan, Morocco, and many other countries. In addition to research, Jim has also provided sage council on editorial boards, fostered the careers of younger colleagues, and added greatly to the geological collections and public displays of the Oxford University Museum. Jim’s academic excellence has already been honoured by major awards from the Geological Society and Linnean Society, among others, and with the award of the first Palaeontographical Society Medal we hope to further recognise the immense contribution that Jim has made to understanding the fossil fauna of the British Isles. 


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