Royal Geographical Society

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History

Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
Established 1830
Abbreviation RGS-IBG
Patron Queen Elizabeth II
President Sir Neil Cossons
Location Kensington, London, United Kingdom
Members 13,300
Income £3.3 million
Homepage RGS IBG homepage

The Royal Geographical Society is a learned society, founded in 1830 with the name Geographical Society of London for the advancement of geographical science, under the patronage of King William IV. It absorbed the 'Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa' (founded by Sir Joseph Banks in 1788), the Raleigh Club and the Palestine Association. It was given a Royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1859.


Founder members of the Society include Sir John Barrow, Sir John Franklin and Francis Beaufort. It has been a key associate and supporter of many famous explorers and expeditions, including those of:

Statue of Shackleton outside the society headquarters
Statue of Shackleton outside the society headquarters

Today the Society is a leading world centre for geographical learning - supporting education, teaching, research and scientific expeditions, as well as promoting public understanding and enjoyment of geography. It is a member of the Science Council. The society has merged with the Institute of British Geographers and is properly known as the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). The main offices of the Society are in Kensington, in London.

Governance and Past Presidents


The Society is governed by its Board of trustees called the Council, which is chaired by its President. The members of Council and the President are elected from its Fellowship. The council consists of 25 members, 22 of which are elected by Fellows and serve for a three year term. In addition to the elected trustees there are Honorary Members (who include the Duke of Kent as Honorary President) who sit on the council.


The society has five specialist committees that it derives advice from

  • Education Committee
  • Research Committee
  • Expedition and Fieldwork Committee
  • Information Resources Committe
  • Finance Committe


Fellows of the Society are conferred to anyone over the age of 21 who have served the society for five previous years and have an involvement with geography (through research, publication, profession etc) and must be proposed and second by existing Fellows. Fellows are granted the use of the post-nominal FRGS.

Chartered Geographer

In recent years the Society has been granted the power to award the status of Chartered Geographer. The status of chartered geographer can only be obtained by present Fellows of the society who apply for the award and meet the criteria. Being awarded the status of Chartered Geographer allows the use of the post-nominal letters C.Geog.

Chartered Geographer (Teacher) is a professional accreditation available to teachers who can demonstrate competence, experience and professionalism in the use of geographical knowledge or skills in and out of the classroom, and who are committed to maintaining their professional standards through ongoing continuing professional development (CPD). For more information visit

Selected List of Past Presidents

  • Viscount Goderich The Earl of Ripon (1830-1833)
  • Sir Roderick Murchison (1851-1853)
  • Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1871-1873 and 1874-1876)
  • Sir Clements Robert Markham (1893-1905)
  • Sir George Taubman Goldie (1905-1908)
  • Major Leonard Darwin (1905-1911)
  • Colonel Sir Thomas Hungerford Holdich (1919-1922)
  • Sir James Wordie
  • Lord Shackleton (1971-1974)
  • Sir Crispin Tickell (1989-1993)
  • Earl of Selborne (1997-2000)

Research Group

The society is not only a learned body but also carries out research in the following research groups.

Research Groups
Biogeography Research Group British Geomorphic Research Group
Climate Change Research Group Contract Research and Teaching Forum
Developing Areas Research Group Economic geography Research Group
Geographical Information Science Research Group Geography of Health Research Group
Geography of Lesiure and Tourism Research Group Higher Education Research Group
Historical Geography Research Group History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Mountain Research Group Participatory Geographies Working Group
Planning and Environment Research Group political Geography Research Group
Population geography Research Group Postgraduate Forum
The Post-Socialist Geographies Research Group Quantitative Methods Research Group
Rural Geography Research Group Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Transport Geography Research Group Urban geography Research Group
Women and Geography Research Group

Awards and Grants

The society also presents many awards to geographers that have contributed to the advancement of geography.

The most prestigious of these awards are the Gold Medals (Founder's Medal 1830 and the Patron's Medal 1838). The award is given for "the encouragement and promotion of geographical science and discovery", and are approved by Queen Elizabeth II. The awards originated as an annual gift of fifty guineas from King William IV, first made in 1831, "to constitute a premium for the encouragement and promotion of geographical science and discovery". The Society decided in 1839 to change this monetary award into two gold medals: Founder’s Medal and the Patron’s. The award has been given to notable geographers including David Livingstone (1855), Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen (1878) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1892) to more recent winners including Professor William Morris Davis (1919), Sir Halford John Mackinder (1945), Professor Richard Chorley (1987) and Professor David Harvey (1995). In 2004 Harish Kapadia was awarded the Patron's Medal for contributions to geographical discovery and mountaineering in the Himalayas, making him the second Indian to receive the award in its history. In 2005 the Founder's Medal was awarded to Professor Sir Nicholas Shakleton for his research in the field of Quaternary Paleoclimatology and the Patron's Medal was awarded to Professor Jean Malaurie for a lifelong study of the Arctic and its people.

In total the society awards 17 medals and awards including Honorary Membership and Fellowships. Some of the other awards given by the Society include:

  • The Victoria Medal (1902) for "conspicuous merit in research in Geography"
  • The Murchsion Award (1882) for the "publication judged to contribute most to geographical science in preceding recent years"
  • The Cuthbert Peak Award (1883) for "those advancing geographical knowledge of human impact on the environment through the application of contemporary methods, including those of earth observation and mapping"
  • The Edward Heath Award (1984) for "for geographical research in either Europe or the developing world"

The society also offers 16 grants for various purposes ranging from established researcher grants to expedition and fieldwork teams to photography and media grants. The Ralph Brown and the Gilchrist Fieldwork grants are the largest grants awarded by the society each worth £15,000.

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