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Cherry Lewis awarded Sue Tyler Friedman medal

The Geological Society of London’s Sue Tyler Friedman medal has been awarded this year to Cherry Lewis for her distinguished contributions to the recording of the history of geology. The medal is awarded annually, or at such intervals as Council may determine, on a world-wide basis without regard to nationality.

This Geological Society award was established by Gerry Friedman in 1987 as a gift of the Northeastern Science Foundation Inc. of Troy, New York, and dedicated to his wife Sue Tyler Friedman. The award of the medal is not confined to those with a geological background or to Fellows of the Geological Society of London.

Former Chair of HOGG and current HOGG committee member, Cherry Lewis, received her award at this year’s President’s Day at Burlington House on June 13th 2012. Her name is now added to the list of distinguished historians who have previously won the award.

The CITATION given by the GSL President: “The Sue Tyler Friedman Medal, awarded for excellence in research into the history of geology, was endowed by a Foundation established by one of this Society’s senior Fellows – the distinguished carbonate sedimentologist and historian of science, Professor Gerald Friedman, who sadly died in November last year. Let us take the occasion of this award to remember and salute a great benefactor of the Society. The Award, named for Gerald’s wife, goes this year to a geologist who has straddled many worlds in her career – Dr Cherry Lewis. With a childhood interest in fossils, Cherry came to study geology as a mature student, obtaining academic qualifications in geochemistry which led to a career in oil exploration. Until her recent retirement, she worked at the University of Bristol as an editor and media relations manager, promoting that institution’s scientific research to a wider public. Cherry’s interests, however, have long lain in the history of our science. An active member of the History of Geology Group (HOGG), she served as Chair from 2004 to that crucial anniversary year of 2007, when she convened a conference on the Society’s history, with its memorable dinner in costume dress, and co-edited the subsequent Special Publication. Cherry is well known as the biographer of Arthur Holmes, and for her book about his life and work, The Dating Game. She is currently working on a biography of one of this Society’s founders, James Parkinson – best known today for giving his name to the neurological disease he first described. Cherry Lewis, you have been pivotal in developing the History of Geology as a discipline within this Society. Your personal drive and energy have been major factors in making HOGG one of this Society’s most active and exciting specialist groups. Please accept with our respect and gratitude, the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of The Geological Society of London.”

The RESPONSE given by Cherry Lewis: “Thank you so much, Mr President, – I cannot say how delighted I am to be recognised for doing something I enjoy so much, but I would not be here had it not been for Bristol University and the Open University where I took my degrees, and who took me on as a mature student; to them, undying thanks. Never did I imagine I would one day be standing on this podium, let alone sharing it with my PhD supervisor, Chris Hawkesworth, this year’s Wollaston medallist.

I joined HOGG about 15 years ago, when it had been in existence about three years and our membership was very small. In fact, as John Fuller, one of the founders of HOGG who sadly died this year, recalled for our oral history project: “At the time … the Geological Society, as the world’s premier Society, seemed to be only distantly attached to its own history”. But over the years, this attitude has changed and it’s now wonderful to see even diehard geologists becoming interested in the subject. A few weeks ago I was at a meeting where, to my amazement, there were John Dewey and Rob Butler, both giving historical papers. Even Chris emails me on occasions, seeking bits of historical information.

The history of geology seems to have come of age. Today, the Society’s publications on geohistory are some of its best sellers and you may have noticed that hardly a month goes by without Geoscientist carrying an article on geohistory. Ours may be a young science but its history is full of vitality. It’s the story of geologists and how they think, how their ideas have evolved and how we come to be where we are now in the understanding of our science. It’s an astonishing story that all of us are part of – and it’s a history we should all be proud of.”

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