The Palaeontographical Society Medal

The Palaeontographical Society Medal

The biennial 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.

Please contact the Secretary Elsa Panciroli

Previous Awards

Prof. Susan Evans (left), with President Dr Caroline Buttler

Palaeontographical Society Medal 2022
Professor Susan E. Evans

Professor Susan E. Evans is the world’s preeminent expert on the early evolution of lissamphibians
(frogs, salamanders, and allies) and squamate reptiles (lizards, snakes, and allies). Over the course of her long and exceptionally productive career, she has produced a series of benchmark studies on
reptile interrelationships that have shaped an entire field, and mentored the next generation of

An extraordinarily talented comparative anatomist with an exceptionally wide knowledge that spans
amniote diversity, she has interests ranging from taxonomy and systematics, through functional
morphology and macroevolution, to evolutionary development. Combining these skills, Prof. Evans
has led many major projects that have provided deep insights into the reptilian tree of life, including
the biomechanical factors influencing the evolution of the reptile skull, the geographic patterns of
early lizard diversification and, most recently, the evolution of mineralized tissues and body armour
in lizards. Her total body of work is composed of >350 papers and she shows no sign of slowing down her rate of publication.

Professor Evans’ taxonomic work has encompassed the description of many new lissamphibians,
squamates, turtles, parareptiles and basal diapsids, and has been international in scope. Her
expertise is in high demand, and she has been invited to work on material in China, Japan, the USA,
Spain, France, Morocco, Australia, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere – in fact, just about anywhere that
fossil lizards have been found. However, some of her most important works are a series of
benchmark studies on key taxa from the UK, such as monographs on the early diapsid
Gephyrosaurus, the earliest assemblages of lizards and salamanders from the Bathonian
microvertebrate sites of England and Scotland, and the first reports of fossil lizards and amphibians
from the Wealden. She has been instrumental in highlighting the importance of microvertebrate
faunas for informing major events in reptile and amphibian evolution, as well as a more
comprehensive understanding of Mesozoic terrestrial ecology, which has been based on her work at
sites like the Late Triassic fissure fills of the Welsh borders, the Middle Jurassic of Skye and
Oxfordshire, and the Early Cretaceous of the Purbeck Limestone Group.

In addition to her research work, Susan has been an important mentor for many others in the UK
and internationally, supporting their career development with sage advice and collaboration. Her
academic position, as a clinical anatomist in UCL’s medical school (where she has been for almost
her entire career), limited her access to PhD students, but she still trained a cohort of students from
the UK, China and Japan, as well as hosting postdocs from Spain, Poland and Iran. Her medical
anatomical expertise also led to an invitation to co-author the chapter on the human heart in Gray’s Anatomy – showing that her impact goes well beyond vertebrate palaeontology. Susan has been a
pillar of the UK palaeontological community for over four decades, acting as an editor for many
leading journals and as a member of Council for many professional societies, not least The
Palaeontographical Society and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Although the UK is blessed with an abundance of leading palaeontologists, not many can claim to be
the global leader in their field. Without doubt, Susan fills that role in her area of the subject. As a
modest and rather self-deprecating individual, she has never sought awards or distinctions, but has
quietly ploughed a deep, wide furrow, furthering our knowledge of reptile evolution and helping
train many others at the same time. She is therefore a most deserving recipient of the
Palaeontographical Society Medal.

Palaeontographical Society Medal 2020
Professor Jennifer (Jenny) A. Clack FRS FLS

The citation was co-authored by Prof. Matt Friedman, Dr Sam Giles and Dr Alex Liu 

Professor Jenny Clack was informed that she would be the fourth recipient of the medal early in 2020. However, she sadly passed away on 26th March 2020 before it could be presented to her. The medal was presented to her husband Rob in the summer of 2020.

Professor Jennifer A. Clack FRS FLS was awarded the Palaeontographical Society Medal for 2020 in recognition of her exceptional contribution to our understanding of the early evolution of terrestrial vertebrates, or tetrapods.

Jenny’s professional paleontological career began with her doctoral degree at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where she focused on the anatomy and relationships of the Carboniferous tetrapod Pholiderpeton from the Yorkshire Coal Measures. After joining the University Museum of Zoology at the University of Cambridge as an Assistant Curator in 1981, Jenny rose through the ranks at that institution over the course of her career, holding positions including Curator in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the museum, Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology within the University, and Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge, taking on Emeritus positions in the museum and Darwin College following her retirement in October 2015.

The evolutionary history of early tetrapods was the primary research focus of Jenny’s career, and her most famous contributions are perhaps her revisionary studies of the now-iconic Devonian tetrapods Acanthostega and Ichtyostega. Jenny’s work formed part of a major effort to re-evaluate the anatomy and significance of the Devonian tetrapods of Greenland. This project played a pivotal role in clarifying one of the major evolutionary transitions amongst animals: the origin of terrestrial vertebrates from their fish predecessors.

Jenny’s work also frequently drew upon the fossil record of the British Isles. Her research into the systematic and evolutionary significance of British Carboniferous tetrapods, incorporating both new collections and museum specimens, probably constitutes the greater fraction of her research outputs. Jenny was involved (alongside Mike Coates) in coining the moniker ‘Romer’s Gap’ to describe the apparent break in the early Carboniferous fossil record of tetrapods. In recent years, she spearheaded a multi-institution, multi-disciplinary project that has done much to plug this gap, particularly through fieldwork in the Scottish borders. Jenny’s Carboniferous studies are remarkable in their breadth. Some focus on individual fossil specimens, for example Pederpes, one of the first intact tetrapods to emerge from ‘Romer’s gap’. Others present detailed investigations of ancient ecosystems, including the earliest fully terrestrial vertebrate community captured by the site at East Kirkton in West Lothian. These efforts continue to fuel active discussions regarding the origin of terrestrial vertebrates, the habitats that supported them, and the relative role of the end-Devonian extinction(s) in structuring subsequent patterns of diversity in the Carboniferous, and beyond.

Jenny’s outstanding contribution to palaeontological research is exemplified by her impressive record of groundbreaking publications in top-tier journals; the success of her landmark text Gaining Ground: the Origin and Early Evolution of Tetrapods (first published in 2002); a host of accolades including honorary doctorates from the Universities of Chicago and Leicester, the Lapworth Medal of the Palaeontological Association, and her election as a Fellow of the Royal Society; and the success of many of her mentees, who now span museums and universities across the globe. Furthermore, Jenny was a wonderful friend, colleague and mentor, selflessly supporting those she trained and worked with, and possessing enormous respect for the autonomy of her students’ intellectual contributions.

The collective impact of Jenny’s career goes well beyond a “sustained and important series of contributions to taxonomic and systematic palaeontology”, and she is thus an exceptionally worthy recipient of the Palaeontographical Society Medal.

Palaeontographical Society Medal 2018
Dr Robert (Bob) M. Owens

The third recipient of the medal, Dr Owens was awarded the medal at the society’s AGM at the Natural History Museum, London, in April 2018.

The citation for the presentation, written by Dr Lucy McCobb and read by Prof. Paul Barrett (President), is as follows:

Dr Robert (Bob) Owens is to receive the Palaeontographical Society Medal for 2018, in recognition of the outstanding contribution he has made, and continues to make, to our understanding of trilobite faunas both in the British Isles and internationally.

Bob completed his PhD thesis at the University of Leicester on Ordovician and Silurian trilobites from Britain and Scandinavia, and has been studying trilobites ever since. He spent his career at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, which he joined as Head of Palaeontology and Assistant Keeper of Geology in 1970. Throughout a research career spanning over forty years (and still ongoing after his official ‘retirement’), Bob discovered over 20 new genera and more than 100 new species of trilobites, working with colleagues from Britain and overseas.

With Professor Richard Fortey, he erected a new order, the Proetida, in 1975 and went on to publish several detailed studies of trilobites in that group, including a 1973 Palaeontographical Society Monograph on ‘British Ordovician and Silurian Proetidae’. Bob worked on several key faunas from Wales and the Welsh borders – the trilobite data from that work made an important contribution to biostratigraphic studies, and correlation of the Series and Stages within the historic type area for the Ordovician and beyond. He has also explored palaeogeographical questions, particularly the relationships between Avalonian faunas and those of other Ordovician palaeocontinents such as Gondwana and Baltica.

Bob has an impressive knowledge of trilobites from their full stratigraphic range, also having worked extensively on Upper Palaeozoic trilobites, charting the evolution and extinctions of Carboniferous and Permian taxa. This included a modern revision of classic Carboniferous trilobites, first described from Ireland in the early 19th century by Philips, Portlock and others. The first part of Bob’s Palaeontographical Society Monograph on ‘British Carboniferous trilobites’ was published in 1986, and another part is in preparation.

As well as carrying out meticulous taxonomic work, Bob collaborated with Richard Fortey on some key studies of the biology and functional morphology of trilobites, including their feeding habits and enrolment styles. These works are valuable references for trilobite workers the world over, with applications to higher level taxonomic classification, as well as providing a fuller understanding of trilobites as functioning animals. Bob’s interest in trilobite biology extended to palaeoecological studies of whole faunas, identifying the ecological roles played by individual species within the complex mosaic of microhabitats in ancient marine settings.

Bob’s impressive body of work on fossils from the British Isles would be more than sufficient cause to award him this medal, but he has also collaborated with many international colleagues on studies of trilobite faunas from around the world, from Belgium and Spain, to Inner Mongolia, Artic Russia and Greenland.

The excellent standard of Bob’s written English is well known to his colleagues, and his meticulous attention to detail proved a valuable asset to the Palaeontographical Society, for whom he served as an editor from 1982 to 1991. Bob was also an editor for the Palaeontological Association (1993-1996), of which he was Vice-President between 1997 and 2000. He is also keenly involved with local societies, serving on the committees of Cardiff Scientific Society and Cardiff Astronomical Society, of which he was a founder.

Bob is always happy to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for trilobites with others, whether supervising a PhD thesis or developing new exhibitions at the National Museum of Wales. He has given many public lectures, and has been filmed talking about trilobites for several television series. Those who know him, will know that Bob is a true gentleman, always extremely modest and self-effacing about his knowledge and achievements.

Palaeontographical Society Medal 2016
Dr Adrian W.A. 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.

Palaeontographical Society Medal 2014
Professor Jim Kennedy

The first recipient of the Palaeontographical Society Medal was Professor Jim Kennedy, was presented his award at the society’s AGM in April 2014.

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.