Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Royal Scottish Geographical Society

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) is a learned society founded in 1884 and based in Glasgow. The Society has a membership of 2500 and aims to advance the science of geography world-wide by supporting education, research, expeditions, through its journal (the Scottish Geographical Journal), its newsletter (GeogScot) and other publications. cite web |title=Royal Scottish Geographical Society |url= |accessdate=2007-07-25]

The Society operates fourteen regional centres across Scotland which are the focus for a high-profile programme of more than one hundred illustrated talks annually; namely at Aberdeen, Airdrie, Ayr, Dumfries, Dundee, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Galashiels, Glasgow, Helensburgh, Inverness, Kirkcaldy, Perth and Stirling. Based on its expertise and library, the Society also provides a service intended to answer geographical queries about Scotland and beyond.

The RSGS provides a uniquely Scottish flavour, with particular interests in working with Scottish Universities and educators in developing the discipline world-wide. This is distinguished from the Royal Geographical Society, which although with a United Kingdom-wide remit, focuses on England and Wales.

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society Library is held and maintained by the University of Strathclyde and the Society also holds a significant map and photography collections (at least 200,000 items), together with a substantial archive dating back to its foundation, all of which are subject to a Heritage Lottery-funded project called [ Images for All] which aims to record, list online and to broaden access to this material.

Now housed within the Graham Hills Building of the University of Strathclyde (40 George Street, Glasgow), the Society was formerly based in its own premises at 10 Randolph Crescent in Edinburgh.


The originator of the idea for a national society of geography in Scotland was John George Bartholomew, of the Bartholomew map-making company in Edinburgh. Bartholomew felt that there was a low quality of map craftsmanship within Britain and a lack of geographical societies as compared with the rest of Europe, and set out to investigate the situation in other countries, particularly in Germany. As a result of this he began work in establishing a geographical society for Scotland.

Bartholomew was assisted by Mrs A.L. Bruce, the daughter of the explorer David Livingstone. She herself was a keen geographer, with a particular interest in Africa. They sought the support of Professor James Geikie, Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh. Geikie had a keen interest in the advancement in geographical research and teaching, willingly giving his support to the project, and in December 1884 The Scottish Geographical Society (S.G.S.) was established. Recruiting members from many of Edinburgh's most prominent men and women, the Society managed to establish support from influential quarters. Whereas the Royal Geographical Society took its membership from the leisured rich of London and those of a military or governmental background with a desire to travel, the S.G.S. membership was more diverse, with members from scientific and academic backgrounds, providing a broader yet more intellectual emphasis to its aims, as well as members of the general public, who joined more through interest or knowledge of the new discoveries than from any real interest in their own country.

The aims of the Society were diverse, yet exploration was seen as having less emphasis than research and education. The first edition of the Scottish Geographical Magazine stated: -

"... it is therefore one of the first objectives of the Scottish Geographical Society to advance the study of geography in Scotland: to impress the public with the necessity and inestimable value of a thorough knowledge of geography in a commercial, scientific or political education."

Again the SGS differed from the RGS, where the SGS concentrated on education and research, the RGS stressed exploration and discovery, and the gathering together and dissemination of information from such activities. These differences could be attributed to the membership of each society. The SGS was founded at that point in the nineteenth century when the scientific climate prevailing in Scotland, and in particular Edinburgh, influenced the direction of the Society's goals and activities. With many academics as members, education and research were always going to be important issues, whereas with the RGS a member-base consisting of servicemen and civil servants trained in the classics pushed their work in a differing direction.

At that time Edinburgh was the focus of geography within Scotland, with an active and lively scientific community from within which the seeds of a more balanced and scientific approach to geography would emerge. Yet, within a year of its foundation, the Scottish Geographical Society had established branches in Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow to cater for the strong local interest and active participation in its work. This contrasted with the approach of the RGS which had, in its first 50 years, made no attempt to expand its activities outwith London. [Scotland as the Cradle of Modern Academic Geography in Britain by Elspeth N. Lochhead (Scottish Geographical Magazine vol.97 no.2 (September 1981) p.98-109)]

Chief amongst the RSGS's early achievements were its support for the quietly successful Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902-04), and the establishment of Scotland's first professorial chair in Geography, at the University of Edinburgh.


Membership of RSGS is open to all, regardless of geographical location. Members are entitled to free attendance at most Royal Scottish Geographical Society Illustrated Talks, which are held at RSGS Regional Centres throughout Scotland. Members receive the Scottish Geographical Journal, the Society's learned periodical, and GeogScot, the Society's newsletter, free of charge, and are entitled to use the Society's research collections, including its library, from which books may be borrowed, and its map and photograph collections, which may be consulted by prior arrangement with the Curator. Other benefits include excursions and field trips, travel offers and competitions.

There are eight categories of membership:

*Joint Membership (Two adults and two children)
*Single Membership (Single Adult)
*Overseas Membership

*Student and Under-25 Membership
*School, College, or Student Society Membership
*Scottish Association of Geography Teachers (SAGT) Joint Membership
*Life Membership
*Professional Associateship

Fellows of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (FRSGS)

See [ List of Honorary Fellows] and [ List of Fellows] .

* Hamish Brown
* Duncan Vernon Pirie
* William Grant Stairs
* Lord Wilson of Tillyorn

Presidents of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

*1885-1891: The Earl of Rosebery KG KT
*1891-1894: The Duke of Argyll KG KT
*1894-1898: The Marquess of Lothian KT
*1898-1904: John Murray KCB
*1904-1910: James Geikie DCL LLD FRS
*1910-1914: The Earl of Stair
*1914-1916: The Duke of Buccleuch KT
*1916-1919: Lord Guthrie LLD
*1919-1925: Lord Salvesen PC
*1925-1930: The Viscount Novar KT GCMG
*1930-1934: The Lord Elphinstone KT
*1934-1937: Lord Polwarth CBE
*1937-1942: The Earl of Rosebery KT
*1942-1946: D'Arcy Thomson Kt CB
*1946-1950: Alan G. Ogilvie OBE
*1950-1954: John Bartholomew MC JP FRSGS
*1954-1958: Douglas A. Allan CBE LLD DSc PhD FRSE FRSGS
*1958-1962: The Earl of Wemyss and March LLD DL
*1962-1968: The Hon. Lord Cameron DSC MA LLB LLD DL
*1968-1974: The Rt.Hon. Lord Balerno CBE TD MA DSc
*1974-1977: Professor Ronald Miller MA PhD FRSE FRSGS
*1977-1983: Professor J. Wreford Watson MA PhD LLD FRSC FRSE FRSGS
*1983-1987: The Viscount of Arbuthnott DSC MA FRSA FRICS
*1987-1993: John C. Bartholomew MA FRSE FRGS
*1993-1999: Viscount Younger of Leckie KT KCVO TD DL
*1999-2005: The Earl of Dalkeith KBE DL
*2005- The Earl of Lindsay


External links

* [ List of Fellows]
* [ Official website]
* [ The Gazetteer for Scotland] Supported by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society
* [ Images for All Project]
* [ Awards and Medals]

ee also

*Gazetteer for Scotland
*Geography of Scotland
*History of science
*Learned societies
*List of British professional bodies
*List of Royal Societies

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