Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

Chancellor's Medal Awarded to Professor Ian Simmons

(16 June 2016)

Chancellor's Medal Awarded to Professor Ian Simmons

Professor Ian Simmons has a world-wide reputation for research on environmental history, biogeography and prehistoric archaeology. His work speaks to the central question of the relation between nature and humanity, and of how we come to understand ourselves in relation to our role in environmental change through history.

During his distinguished career, which is remarkable for its breadth - his work has been influential in both physical and human geography, across the environmental sciences and into the humanities, combining rigorous field and laboratory science with erudite and expansive scholarship drawing on diverse traditions of philosophy and environmental thought. He has a particular interest in the environmental and landscape history of the English uplands and more recently of east Lincolnshire, his childhood home.

Professor Simmons earned his PhD from University College London in 1962 and joined the Department of Geography at Durham in the same year. He remained at Durham as Lecturer and then Reader until 1977 when he was appointed Professor of Geography at the University of Bristol. After four years at Bristol he returned to Durham where he was Professor of Geography for twenty years until his retirement in 2001. He has the unique distinction of having served as Head of Department at both Durham and Bristol - both departments being in the top 5 of successive Research Assessment rounds. In his retirement, successor Heads of Department have sought out his good counsel.

His numerous honours include being elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy in 1997 (and serving on its council 2000 - 2003), the Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1998 (its highest award), and being elected as the first Durham member of the Academia Europea. He was a member of the panels for Geography for the 1996 and 2001 Research Assessment Exercises and chaired the group that produced the QAA's subject benchmarking statement for geography in 2000. Beyond the academy, Ian has served as Chairman of the Durham Rural Community Council, as a Council member of the County Wildlife Trusts for Durham and Avon and on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Planning Committee.

Since retiring, Ian has continued to advance his field, publishing three monographs and numerous articles, furthering our understanding of the historical evolution of the British landscape through a unique combination of science-based and archival data which has revealed new insights into how coastal landscapes have evolved.

Congratulations Professor Simmons.