June 21, 2010 — William Ruddiman, a professor emeritus of environmental sciences, is the 2010 winner of the Lyell Medal, presented by the Geological Society of London. He received the award June 2 during ceremonies at the society's headquarters in London.
Ruddiman received the medal for his significant contributions to the theory and practical assessment of long-term and abrupt climate changes during the Cenozoic Era, which covers the period from about 65 million years ago to the present.
The author of books on geology and numerous journal articles, Ruddiman is particularly noted for his theory that humans began altering global climate as early as 8,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture.
His book, "Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate," earned the 2006 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award.
Ruddiman is a climate scientist who specializes in investigating ocean-sediment and ice-core records. In recent years, he has searched across scientific disciplines – anthropology, archaeology, population dynamics, climatology – to gain insight into how humans may have affected climate over the millennia.
He draws from numerous unrelated studies from disparate fields of inquiry, examining early human history and agricultural practices, population fluctuations, atmospheric chemistry – every piece of the puzzle that comes together to provide the big picture of why and how climate changes, and the effects of human activity on climate.
The Geological Society of London, founded in 1807, is the oldest geological society in the world. The Lyell Medal is given each year to an investigator who has made a significant contribution to geological science by means of a substantial body of research. It was first awarded in 1876.
Charles Lyell was one of the most prominent geologists of the 19th century. His book, "Principles of Geology," which argued that the present is the key to the past, was a major influence on Charles Darwin.