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Society for the History of Natural History

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Professor Jim Secord – awarded SHNH Founders’ Medal

Professor Jim Secord – awarded SHNH Founders’ Medal

Congratulations to Professor Jim Secord for being awarded the SHNH Founders’ Medal.  The Founders’ Medal is awarded to persons who have made a substantial contribution to the study of the history or bibliography of natural history.


In receiving the award Jim said:

“It is a great honour to be awarded the Founders’ medal, as I have always aspired to the union of historical, bibliographical and scientific insight encouraged by the Society. The list of previous winners is remarkable. Several of them — particularly Joan Eyles, Martin Rudwick, and Gordon Herries Davies — I met as a fledgling historian of the earth sciences at the Charles Lyell Symposium in 1975, the very first academic conference I ever attended. I have come to know many of the others through meetings of this Society, through their writings, and as friends. It is of course a particular pleasure for me to remember Frederick Burkhardt, founder of the Darwin Correspondence Project. Fred always knew that natural history was for Darwin a cooperative enterprise, and for historians it needs to be the same.”

An Appreciation of the work of Professor Jim Secord

by Professor Hugh Torrens

Jim was born in Madison, Wisconsin and studied English Literature and Geology at Pomona College, California. After graduating, he was awarded a Thomas J. Watson fellowship for study and travel abroad; his decision to explore geology and Romanticism in England led to his interest in the History of Science.  His doctorate from Princeton University on the Murchison/Sedgwick battle over the Cambrian to Silurian division of the geological column was revised while he was a junior research fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, and was published under the title Controversy in Victorian geology (Princeton, 1986).

Jim’s research spans the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, and he has taught at Imperial College, London, and at Cambridge, supervising over 25 doctoral students.  His publications include Victorian sensation; the extraordinary publication, reception, and secret authorship of “Vestiges of the natural history of creation” (Chicago, 2000), which describes the public debate about evolution in the mid-nineteenth century, and won the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society.  He was one of the editors of Cultures of natural history (CUP, 1996), which is still widely used as a teaching text.  He has edited works by Mary Somerville, Charles Lyell, and Robert Chambers, as well as a selection of Darwin’s evolutionary writings in the Oxford World’s Classics series, which includes a fresh transcription of Darwin’s autobiographical recollections and responses to Darwin’s books from around the world.  More recently he published Visions of Science: books and readers at the dawn of the Victorian age (OUP, 2014).

Jim has served as Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project since 2006. He is a Fellow of Christ’s College, and Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, at Cambridge.


The SHNH Founder’s Medal

6998f03aacThe SHNH Founders’ Medal is awarded to persons who have made a substantial contribution to the study of the history or bibliography of natural history.

More information and list of past recipients of the medal.