Researcher appointed Geographer Royal

An Edinburgh scientist is to be appointed Geographer Royal for Scotland.

Professor Charles Withers, who holds the Ogilvie Chair of Geography, is appointed to the ancient post, which has been vacant for 118 years.

The world-leading historical and cultural geographer was awarded the title by HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Perth.

Ambassadorial role

I am honoured ... but this honour is for geography. After a period in which the title of Geographer Royal for Scotland has lain in abeyance, the subject again has this recognition of its standing.

Professor Charles WithersSchool of GeoSciences

The Geographer Royal is a national and international ambassador for geography, helping to promote the subject in research, education and in society.

Traditionally their role was to give cartographic and geographic advice.

The first Geographer Royal for Scotland, Sir Robert Sibbald, was appointed in 1682 by King Charles II.

The title and Royal warrant to the position of Geographer Royal was last bestowed by Queen Victoria.

Sir Robert was the first Professor of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, co-founder of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh and of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Historic post

Geographer Royal is the second oldest such honorific post in Scotland.

The oldest is that of Her Majesty’s Historiographer Royal, which was created a year earlier in 1681.

The position of Her Majesty’s Botanist for Scotland was created in 1699, and the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland was appointed in 1834.

I have no doubt that Professor Withers will prove to be dedicated to the development and promotion of geographical knowledge, championing the subject of geography in education, particularly to children in our schools, as well as to wider society.

John SwinneyDeputy First Minister

2015 is the perfect year for the reintroduction of the Geographer Royal for Scotland, with various issues from local and international geopolitical change to sustainable development goals to climate negotiations in Paris, to migration issues, transport, digital mapping, health and land reform. The need for an informed geographical representation has never been greater.

Mike RobinsonChief Executive, Royal Scottish Geographical Society