The Palaeontographical Society

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 Nigel Ainsworth.


Palaeontographical Society Medal

The Palaeontographical Society Medal

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

Dr Bob 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

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.



Palaeontographical Society Medal 2014 - Professor Jim Kennedy

Prof. 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.

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