GSA Medals & Awards

Gilbert H. Cady Award

Andrew Cunningham Scott
Andrew Cunningham Scott
Royal Holloway
University of London

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All 2007
Division Award Recipients

Presented to Andrew Cunningham Scott

 Citation by John C. Crelling

This year’s recipient of the Gilbert H. Cady Award is Professor Andrew C. Scott of Royal Holloway College of the University of London, England. Andrew has been conducting research in coal geology for almost thirty-five years during which he has published over 180 papers including five books. His research creatively combines aspects of paleontology, especially paleobotany, coal petrology and geochemistry in answering important questions in coal geology. He has made major research contributions in the understanding of ancient terrestrial ecosystems including the role of fire in the fossil record, the ecology and evolution of Carboniferous vegetation, the taxonomy and evolution of lycopsid megaspores, plant-arthropod interactions in the fossil record, the taphonomy and preservation of plant fossils, the formation of fossil fuels, including studies of oil source rocks, and he has developed and applied a range of microscopical techniques to the study of fossil plants, including the use of scanning acoustic and scanning laser microscopy.

His research has shown that the plants found in rocks overlying coal seams were often different from the plants that formed the coal seams themselves. His research on fossil plants, especially on paleoecology and taphonomy, including studies on the origin of coal balls, has improved our understanding of the evolution of coal-forming vegetation through time. His most significant contribution is that he has settled the long-standing questions on the origin of fusain and inertinite macerals. He has shown that fusain is really fossil charcoal and that its reflectance is a function of the temperature of its formation. He has also used this relationship to provide data for volcanologists on the temperature of the deposits from pyroclastic flows. Professor Scott’s work crosses the traditional boundaries of Geology, Botany, Chemistry, History and Art. Recently he has published a catalogue of 17th century geological drawings from the Royal Collection, the volume of which was launched by Prince Charles at Windsor Castle. This was the work of Federico Cesi and members of the Accademeia dei Lincei and concerned the origin of fossil plants and lignites.

Professor Scott has been an invited speaker at a number of international symposia and conferences. First at Chelsea College of the University of London and then at Royal Holloway he has taught courses in stratigraphy, paleontology, sedimentology, terrestrial paleoecology, and coal geology. He has been the principal research advisor to twelve Ph. D students and numerous under-graduate students and post-doctoral assistants and fellows.

His service includes organizing numerous research conferences including successful international coal conferences as well as editing important volumes of invited contributions. His editorial work also includes serving on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Coal Geology and Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology and previously on the Journal of Petroleum Geology. He also has communicated coal science to the general public with regular public lectures, radio broadcasts on BBC and in the production of an Open University video for television on his work as a coal geologist. Perhaps more significant is his efforts in the creation and participation in the “Science and the Media” program (now called “Science Communication”) at Royal Holloway where students are taught and given practical instruction about communicating science to the public and colleagues.

 In summary, Professor Andrew C. Scott has made outstanding significant contributions in the field of coal geology and he is clearly worthy of recognition with the Gilbert H. Cady Award.

 top 2007 Gilbert H. Cady Award - Response by Andrew Cunningham Scott

Firstly, I would like to thank Jack Crelling for his kind words and secondly the Coal Section of the Geological Society of America for the honour of presenting me with the Gilbert H. Cady Award. I feel particularly proud to be the first Briton and only the second non-North American to receive the award. I am also pleased as Cady spent some time at Yale University where I have just spent a sabbatical year as visiting Professor.

I think that coal geology must be in my blood as many past generations of my family worked in the coal mines of Scotland. While undertaking a coal project for the Royal Scottish Museum in the Douglas coalfield near Coalburn, I spent some time researching my family history in the nearby village of Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire. My family had lived there from at least the mid 17th century until my father left at the start of World War 2. I discovered that my great- great grandfather, great grandfather and grandfather had all worked the coal in the exact area I was researching and that the family home of 1841 was on the edge of the opencast mine. I was thrilled by this connection and published some of my work on the coals in 1999. Who says that coal does not run in the genes?!

I was introduced to geology by a family friend at the age of nine and was encouraged by my uncle Robert Fraser, a coal miner himself. As a schoolboy I was enthused to study geology at London University by Ted Rose, and he not only became my teacher but later a colleague at Royal Holloway. Bill Chaloner introduced me as an undergraduate to fossil plants and I followed on as a PhD student under his guidance. I am pleased that he is now emeritus Professor in the Geology Department at Royal Holloway. There are many that I would like to thank: those with whom I have worked and of course my many research students. I would like especially to mention a few: Margaret Collinson, who has been a friend and co-researcher since we were research students together and who is now a colleague of mine at Royal Holloway; Jean Galtier, who collaborated with me on many papers; John Calder, who gave me the chance to work at Joggins and who has always supported my multi- and inter-disciplinary approach to coal geology; Jon Gibbins who introduced me to the industrial aspects of coal and Ian Glasspool who has been my PhD student, post-doctoral research assistant and now collaborator for the last few years. I also thank my wife Anne and my family for their long-suffering support, enabling me to indulge my various geological passions!

My interest in coal geology, palaeobotany and charcoal from wildfire was kindled in my first month as a PhD student, working on charcoalified plants from the Carboniferous Coal Measures of Yorkshire. I was fortunate to discover the earliest conifer and only after a year of my studies had a paper published in Nature. I should have realized that publishing in Nature is not that easy, as it has taken 33 years for me to have another one published recently, on the Cobham lignite, which spans the Paleocene-Eocene boundary!

My combined interest in coal and palaeobotany was to have another unexpected benefit. I was invited by a member of the Royal Household to come to Windsor Castle to examine some early 17th century drawings of ‘lignites’ from the Queen’s Royal Collection. I was asked to write a catalogue of nearly 200 drawings made by Prince Federico Cesi, the Duke of Acquasparta and founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. When I initially saw the drawings, mainly of fossil woods, it was not possible to identify much. However, in the collection there were also the oldest known field sketches of the fossil localities. Over the next seven years I managed to relocate the sites in Italy and re-collect fossils. This enabled me to make sense of the drawings made for this ancient study to understand the nature of fossils. This project indulged my interest in geology, history and art all at the same time! Some of the sketches showed plumes of smoke rising from the ground and in contemporary correspondence it became clear that these were from underground coal fires! I was honoured that Prince Charles launched the book at Windsor Castle in 2001.

Marie Stopes, one of my heroines, was the only other lecturer at London University to be interested in palaeobotany and coal. Like her, I worked initially in palaeobotany. Like her, I became interested in and published on the origin of coal balls. Like her, I then became interested in coal and in coal petrology. However, Marie Stopes is probably best known in Britain for her work in setting up birth-control clinics, which still today carry her name. I can assure you that I do not plan to follow in that line of work!

I am a passionate believer in a holistic approach to the study of coal and coal geology, integrating petrology, sedimentology, palaeontology and geochemistry and I am pleased that this aspect of my work has been recognised by this award.

Again I thank you for this honour that you have paid me.