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Society for the History of Natural History

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SHNH announces its medal winners Edward C. Dickinson and Tom Kennett

SHNH announces its medal winners Edward C. Dickinson and Tom Kennett

SHNH Council is delighted to announce the medal winners for the Founders Medal and the John Thackray Medal for 2017.


The SHNH Founders’ Medal 2017 has been awarded to Edward C. Dickinson for his substantial contribution to the study of the history and bibliography of natural history.

In receiving the award Edward said: “I am of course delighted, but also astonished and most grateful, to be awarded the Society’s Founders’ Medal.

I have contributed to the history of natural history only through the exploration of bibliographical problem cases. Until about 2000 my work in ornithology focussed on Asia, where I was fortunate enough to live and work for years. However, that year I wrote my first extensive bibliographic paper. It dealt with the riddle of why, for a work that promised 6 plates per part, it took 101 parts to reach completion. The explanation was that some of the 600 pictures required two printing plates! Proof lay in Leiden museum’s archives.

Since then, alongside leading a team to create the third and fourth editions of the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, I have authored or co-authored a number of works, usually with co-authors, on the subject of bibliography. The connection is simple, serious checklists deserve accurate dating of the names given to new taxa. To facilitate such publications the journal Zoological Bibliography was created to provide for papers deserving extensive illustration – with colour used where needed.

It should be clear that I regard myself as a disciple of Charles Davies Sherborn. To-day much still remains to be explored. I take this opportunity to appeal for the deliberate creation of a visual archive of “wrappers” from books that were part-works and from journals. The Biodiversity Heritage Library would be the perfect host for this, but it is likely to need funds to encourage it to commit to this! I hope a few people will step forward to help me make this possible.”



The John Thackray Medal for 2017 has been awarded to Tom Kennett for his The Lord Treasurer of botany; Sir James Edward Smith and the Linnean Collection (London; the Linnean Society 2016).

The judges were unanimous in selecting this work which places Smith at the very centre of British botanical research in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.  In their assessments, the judges praised the scholarship – “an excellent example of analytical scholarship” – and the range – “the book illuminates all aspects of Smith’s life”.  “The resulting book”, one of the judges noted “is entirely original” and all three of the judges agreed that it “was a pleasure to read”, an “attractive and readable book” and “written with great style”. Indeed the book is a most worthy winner of the Thackray Medal for this year.

In receiving the award, Tom said: “I am delighted to be awarded the 2016 John Thackray Medal. It was a privilege to be able to spend 5 years studying the life of Sir James Edward Smith and I am grateful to Gren Lucas and the Council and Officers of the Linnean Society for their generosity in supporting me throughout the process. I am honoured that my first publication has been recognised by such a prestigious accolade from the SHNH”

Tom Kennett FLS is an archivist and biographer. During the course of his archival career he has worked at a variety of institutions, including the Stanley Kubrick Archive, Canterbury Cathedral Archives, the Linnean Society of London, and Lambeth Palace Library, where he currently works.