Bigsby Medal – Geoffrey Duller:

Bigsby Medal – Geoffrey Duller

We come now to the Bigsby Medal, which this year goes to a key international figure in the development of luminescence dating and its application to geological, geomorphological and archaeological sites – Professor Geoff Duller of Aberystwyth University.

Geoff Duller’s work has been instrumental in helping us to understand Quaternary
environmental change, and the rates of operation of a number of geomorphological processes. His research has covered four main themes – the design and development of luminescence equipment, characterising the luminescent properties of minerals, developing analytical procedures for measuring luminescence, and writing research software for collecting, processing and analysing the data retrieved.

His key technical achievements have included developing single aliquot methods of
equivalent-dose determination, developing the first widely available system for making optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) measurements of quartz, as well as the first widely available method for making OSL measurements on single sand-size grains. I think one has to have struggled with the early equipment to fully appreciate the advances these developments represent.

Among his many notable research successes, we should cite dating the earliest evidence for
human symbolic representation in the petroglyphs of Blombos Cave, South Africa; helping to
rethink our understanding of how, and at what rate, linear dunes migrate; and being the first
to apply single grain luminescence methods to determine the timing of deglaciation in the southern Andes. He is also involved in assessing the feasibility of using luminescence to provide some chronological control of geomorphological activity on the surface of Mars.

Geoffrey Duller, for your combined activity in developing the usefulness of this research tool and applying it to our understanding of climate change and human cultural evolution – please accept the Bigsby Medal of the Geological Society of London.

Geoff Duller replied:

President, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour to be awarded this medal by such a
prestigious body.

At school I found it difficult to choose between geography, geosciences, astronomy, engineering and physics. I have therefore been extremely fortunate to work in the field of geochronology, and specifically luminescence dating of Quaternary sediments, where I have been able to combine all these interests.

My research has rarely been a solitary activity, and much of the inspiration and enjoyment has come from the people with whom I have worked. The person whom I have to thank the most is Ann Wintle, my PhD supervisor and later colleague. While an undergraduate in Oxford, my imagination was captured on hearing Ann’s seminar about the new
geochronological method of luminescence dating, which she was instrumental in developing. Later, as a supervisor, Ann was inspiring, critical (but always constructive), generous, an extraordinarily good scientist, and always good-humoured – a role model to whom l still aspire. Ann introduced me to Lars Bratter-lensen with whom I developed a number of pieces of luminescence equipment. Without his support, and that of the Radiation Dosimetry
Research group at Riso National Laboratory in Denmark, few of my achievements would have been possible.

I have also been lucky to work with many colleagues from all around the world, and to have had a number of extremely talented PhD students. It is the combination of science and people that makes research so enjoyable.

Finally, without the support and love of my wife and my two children, none of this would have been possible. I would like to thank them, and the Geological Society for conferring on me the great honour of the Bigsby Medal.

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