Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Monday 21st Geographical Society - the unofficial birthday of one of Scotland’s longest standing charities.

July marked the 130th Anniversary of the founding of The Royal Scottish Despite its longevity it remains relatively little known, and yet its Staff and Council Members have gone on to make quite an impact on Scotland and the wider world. One became UK Prime Minister, another a Maharaja. Others were responsible for epic rescue dramas such as the Emin Pasha Relief expedition and the Endurance expedition of 1914-1917. Another designed Tel Aviv and saved the Edinburgh Old Town from demolition.

These men and women have promoted, funded and run
over 300 research expeditions, most notably the Scotia expedition and their numbers include two of the greatest British polar explorers of all time. Glaciers, ice shelves, seas, large stretches of land, animals, boats and even body parts have been named by (or named after) people connected to the Society. And closer to home, the Society’s members and council have helped establish countless charities and organisations such as the Scottish Ski Club, Edinburgh Zoo, the National Trust for Scotland, the National Parks Campaigns, or forums on flooding, geodiversity and most recently the campaign to retain Earth Sciences in the Scottish curriculum.

This Society of members, academics, explorers, business leaders, scientists, thinkers and educators has inspired generations of people in all walks of life. And they have awarded around 250 medals to, and run over 4,500 public talks by, many inspiring people with the most incredible stories to tell. The RSGS’s fellows and medallists have traversed every continent, climbed every major mountain and range, navigated every ocean and crossed every desert. They have followed rivers from source to sea, and walked, run, cycled, rowed and sailed around the world. They have re-enacted epic boat journeys, protected wild animals and wild landscapes around the world, and discovered medical cures and archaeological remains.

On July 21st 1884, aged just 24, John George Bartholomew, a map maker from Edinburgh was walking on the beach in North Berwick with David Livingstone’s daughter Agnes Bruce, and persuaded her of the need for a Scottish Geographical Society. They together with James Geikie, Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University, founded the Society. The rest as they say is history. 

Today the society, headquartered in Perth, still runs nearly 100 talks a year all over Scotland with the latest generation of inspiring scientists, explorers, adventurers and educationalists. It works with Scottish schools, runs a visitor and education centre and houses one of the most fascinating collections of maps, books and other artefacts. Its core remit remains to inspire people to want to know more about their world. If the next 130 can be as productive as the last, this really should be achievable.

All images copyright of RSGS