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This medal is awarded to the individual who has, in the view of the assessors, made the most distinguished contribution to the Social Sciences. It is awarded to David Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History in Queen’s University Belfast.

Throughout his undergraduate, graduate and professional career, David Livingstone has remained remarkably faithful to Queen’s University, where he was awarded his PhD in 1982. His subsequent career has seen him combine a succession of posts in Queen’s, where he was appointed to his current Chair in 1993, with a number of positions as distinguished visiting scholar or professor in American universities, including Calvin College, Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, the University of British Columbia and Baylor University Texas. Along the way he has been invited to give many of the most prestigious named lectures in his field, including the Hettner lectures (Heidelberg, 2001), published as Science, Space and Hermeneutics), the Humboldt lecture (UCLA, 2007). He was elected to the British Academy in 1995, the Royal Irish Academy in 1998, the Royal Society of Arts in 2001, the Academy of the Social Sciences in 2002 and the Academia Europaea (2002). He was awarded the Admiral Back Award of the Royal Geographical Society in 1997, the Centenary Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1998, and an OBE in 2002. Meanwhile he has been remained highly sought after and continued to participate in all the aspects of academic life which fall to distinguished scholars – editing, presiding and evaluating.

One of his early monographs The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise (1992) rapidly established David Livingstone’s reputation for being a ‘deep’ geographer, concerned with the philosophy and history of his discipline, as well as with extending its present-day boundaries. ‘He has championed an approach to knowledge and ideas that has broad relevance beyond geography and has been utilised in sociology, the history and philosophy of science, social anthropology and modern history’. As one leading scholar has remarked, ‘[he] manages […] to be at once passionate and fair and thus consistently compelling without ever either celebrating the past or condescending to it. His scholarship is wide, fine-textured, penetrating and humane.’ He has played a pioneering role in two major fields: the history and philosophy of geography and the spatial distribution of knowledge and ideas. One specific area in which he has made a major contribution is history of science, through tracing what he has called ‘the spatiality of scientific culture’, most notably in his 2003 monograph Putting Ideas in their place: Geographies of Scientific Knowledge. An edited volume with Charles W. J. Withers in 2005, Geography and Revolution, has drawn attention to the significance of place in revolutionary movements, constituting what might be termed a circumscribed epidemiology of specific revolutions rooted in specific sites and spaces.

His most recent work, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion and the Politics of Human Origins (2008), is an investigation into inquiry from the 16th and 17th century onwards by the pre-Adamites and others who took new readings of mankind’s origins; it is a penetrating account of how mentalities evolved in this regard, and what was at stake in the debate. It has been described by one reviewer as ‘important, topical, and fascinating’, and by another as ‘a substantial contribution to the history of anthropology, of evolution theory, of race and racialist thought, and of science and religion’ .

Clearly now established as a major international figure of importance in several disciplines, David Livingstone is widely cited in several languages. His work has brought very great credit to his institution of origin, Queen’s University Belfast, and to the standing of Irish scholarship. He is a most worthy recipient of this award.