Harry Godwin

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Harry Godwin
Born (1901-05-09)May 9, 1901
Died August 12, 1985(1985-08-12) (aged 84)
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Notable students Nick Shackleton
Influences Arthur Tansley[1]
Notable awards Prestwich Medal (1951)
Linnean Medal (1966)[2]
Fellow of the Royal Society[3]

Sir Harry Godwin FRS,[3] (9 May 1901 - 12 August 1985) was a prominent English botanist and ecologist of the 20th century. He had a long association with Clare College, Cambridge.

Early life[edit]

Godwin was born in Yorkshire and soon after moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire. He had a successful school career and gained scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge in 1918, gaining his PhD in 1926. He was to be closely involved with Clare College for the rest of his life. It was at this time that he first made friends with the ecologist Arthur Tansley who was to be an important influence on Godwin for many years.


His work began in botany and plant physiology, and he continued this throughout his career, eventually becoming a professor of botany in 1960. However his most notable work was in the development of the science of ecology, which was, at the start of his career, in its infancy. He was an early exponent of the study of ecological successions, such as in the fen wetlands at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, where he established the Godwin Plots which can be still seen there today. He was the founder and first director of the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research at the University of Cambridge in 1948, where he supervised pioneering work on the new technique of radiocarbon dating.

Harry Godwin was a stimulating teacher and researcher. His students include many famous practitioners including Richard West, Sir Nick Shackleton, Joakim Donner and many others.


  1. ^ Godwin, H. (1957). "Arthur George Tansley. 1871–1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 3: 227–226. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1957.0016. JSTOR 769363.  edit
  2. ^ Linnean Medal recipients
  3. ^ a b West, R. G. (1988). "Harry Godwin. 9 May 1901-12 August 1985". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 34: 260–226. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1988.0010. JSTOR 770053.  edit