Iain Stewart (geologist)

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Iain Stewart
Iain Stewart - Kolkata 2016-01-25 9443.JPG
Born1964 (age 55–56)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materUniversity of Strathclyde, Bristol University
Known for
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Plymouth
ThesisThe evolution of neotectonic normal fault scarps in the Aegean Region (1990)
Doctoral advisorPaul Hancock
John Thornes

Iain Simpson Stewart MBE FGS FRSE (born 1964)[1] is a Scottish geologist, UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society, and Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth and also a member of the Scientific Board of UNESCO's International Geoscience Programme.[2] Described as geology's "rock star",[3] Stewart is best known to the public as the presenter of a number of science programmes for the BBC, notably the BAFTA nominated[4] Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007).

He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh,[5] and President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Early life and education[edit]

Stewart was born in 1964 in East Kilbride, in Lanarkshire,[6] to Sheena and Jack.[7] He has two younger brothers, Graeme and Frazer. He attended Mount Cameron Primary and then Claremont High School from 1976 to 1982. In an interview with the Glasgow Herald, Stewart revealed that he initially struggled with geology: "I was a middling student, never really at the top of the class, nor at the bottom. Which I think is good, in a way. When you're out there at the top, it can be quite isolating."[8]

Stewart was a child actor and holder of an Equity card. His first appearance on television came in 1978, in a BBC Scotland adaptation of John Buchan's 1922 novel Huntingtower.[9] Amongst his contemporaries at the East Kilbride Rep Theatre was the actor John Hannah.[10] Leaving acting behind, he studied geography and geology at Strathclyde University, graduating in 1986 with a first class honours Bachelor of Science degree. He obtained his doctorate, entitled "The evolution of neotectonic normal fault scarps in the Aegean Region" in 1990 at the University of Bristol on research into earthquakes in Greece and Turkey. In 1990 he began teaching geology at the West London Institute of Higher Education (WLIHE) in Osterley (occupying the Warden's flat with his wife for several years), and from 1995 at Brunel University due to its merger with WLIHE. After 12 years in London he moved back to Scotland to develop a new career as a science broadcaster. Nostalgic for Brunel, he said "And invariably, you move on to places that for all their benefits, seem surprisingly narrow, and more fallow, in comparison. In short, it was a remarkable place to be".[11] He moved to the University of Plymouth in 2004, later becoming Professor of Geoscience Communication, a position he believes to be unique in the world.[12]

Early broadcasting[edit]

Stewart returned to television as an expert academic for Helike – The Real Atlantis, a 2002 BBC Horizon film about the destruction of the Greek city of Helike by earthquake and tsunami in 373 BCE, newly rediscovered in 2001.[13] This, he says, "gave me a hunger to get more geology on telly."[14] He featured in another Horizon film, on earthquakes, in April 2003,[15] before appearing as a team member in the fourth series of Rough Science (shown January/February 2004), a series where a group of scientists is challenged to solve tasks using only the resources of the local surroundings and a small set of supplies.[16]


His main research interests are in the broad area of Earth hazards and natural disasters, particularly in terms of identifying past major earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in the Mediterranean region.[17] Stewart also specialises in geology's effect on culture and religion throughout the history of the world.[18] He appears in other roles, including as a scientific commentator.[19]

Stewart was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to geology and science communication.[20]

Other activities[edit]

As well as teaching at Plymouth University, he is a patron of the English Riviera Geopark, a member of the Scientific Board of UNESCO's International Geological Programme and chair of its 'Hazards' theme, a vice-president of The Geographical Association and its primary Geography 'Champion', a member of the Steering Committee of the IUGS-Commission on Geoscience for Environmental Management Working Group on 'Communicating Environmental Geoscience', a member of the UK National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement's Academic Action Research group, and a member of The Geological Society of London's external relations committee. He is a member of the board of directors at the Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems, University of Durham.[21]

Honours and awards[edit]

Honorary Degrees



Selected broadcasts[edit]

  • Journeys from the Centre of the Earth (2004), six one-hour films charting how geology has shaped the history of the Mediterranean,[24] shown in the United States on Discovery's Science Channel as Hot Rocks: Geology of Civilization.[25] The series won the prestigious "Best Earth Science programme" award at the 2005 Jackson Hole Film Festival.[26]
  • Journeys into the Ring of Fire (2006); four one-hour films showing how rocks shaped the history and culture in Japan, Peru, Indonesia and California.[27]
  • Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007), US title: Earth: The Biography, five one hour films (Volcano, Oceans, Atmosphere, Ice, Rare Earth) about the forces that have shaped the planet and made it what it is.[28][29][30] Cerapachys iainstewarti, a species of Madagascar ant discovered during the filming of this series, was named after Stewart.[31]
  • Ten Things You Didn't Know About... Volcanoes (2006), Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Avalanches, (2008).
  • The Climate Wars (2008), three one-hour films tracing the history of the science and politics of global warming.[32]
  • Hot Planet (2009), with Kathy Sykes, examined global warming ahead of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.[33]
  • How Earth Made Us (2010), ASIN: B002SZQCA2 (Blu-ray), US title: How the Earth Changed History, ASIN: B003DC8824,[34] five one-hour films on how geology, geography and climate have influenced mankind.
  • Walking Through Landscapes, (2010) Radio show, BBC Radio Scotland.
  • Making Scotland's Landscape, (2010) BBC television.
  • Men Of Rock (2011) about scientists working in Scotland who pioneered geological study and understanding. BBC
  • How to Grow a Planet (2012)
  • Volcano Live (2012)[35]
  • Rise of the Continents 4 part series (2013) BBC TV
  • Fracking: The New Energy Rush (2013) Horizon, BBC TV
  • Swallowed by a Sinkhole (2014) Horizon, investigates why the geology of Florida makes it the sinkhole capital of the world, BBC TV[36]
  • Planet Oil (2015) BBC
  • James Clerk Maxwell: The Man Who Made the Modern World The story behind the Scottish physicist who was Einstein's hero. (2015) BBC

Major publications[edit]

  • Sintubin, M., Stewart, I.S., Niemi, T. Altunel, E. (eds.) 2010. Ancient earthquakes. Geological Society of America Special Paper 471, 280p.
  • Pascal, C, Vermeersen, B., Stewart, I.S. (eds.) 2009. Neotectonics, seismicity and stress in glaciated regions Thematic issue of the Journal of the Geological Society. London.
  • Stewart, I.S. and J. Lynch. 2008. Earth: the biography. Washington DC: National Geographic. ISBN 1-4262-0236-9.
  • Stewart, I.S. 2005. Journeys from the centre of the Earth: how geology shaped civilisation. London: Century/Random House. ISBN 1-84413-813-5
  • Morner, N.A., Stewart, I.S., Trifonov, V.G., Caputo, R., Nikonov, A.A., Kozhurin, A.I.,& Kopp, M.L. (Eds.) 2004. Active Faults in the Eastern Hemisphere. Tectonophysics Special Issue volume 380, nos. 3–4.
  • Dunne, W., Stewart, I.S. & Turner, J.P. (Eds.) 2001. Brittle Microtectonics, Neotectonics and Archaeoseismicity. Journal of Structural Geology, special issue, vol. 13, No.2/3, 500pp.
  • Stewart, I.S., Sauber, J. & Rose, J. (Eds.) 2000. Ice Sheets, Crustal Deformation and Seismicity. Journal of Quaternary Science special issue, vol. 14/15.
  • McGuire, W.J., Griffiths, D., Hancock, P.L. & Stewart, I.S. (Eds.) 2000. The Archaeology of Geological Catastrophes. Geological Society of London. Special Publication, 171, 413p. ISBN 978-1-86239-062-1
  • Stewart, I.S. and C. Vita-Finzi (eds.). 1999. Coastal Tectonics. Geological Society of London. Special Publication ISBN 1-86239-024-X
  • Stewart, Iain (22 March 2018). Plate Tectonics. illus. Ruth Palmer. London: Ladybird Books. ISBN 978-0-7181-8718-7.


  1. ^ "Iain Stewart". Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  2. ^ "Iain Stewart". Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  3. ^ Jha, Alok; Sample, Ian; Boase, Nell; Duckworth, Andy (8 September 2008). "Science Weekly: Iain Stewart on climate change". Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Television Specialist Factual". Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  5. ^ "RSE Welcomes 60 New Fellows" (Press release). Royal Society of Edinburgh. 15 February 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Eaglesham pupils help launch windfarm activity programme". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  8. ^ "I don't get recognised much, I'm not in the same league as Brian Cox". The Herald. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  9. ^ Clip from Huntingtower YouTube.com
  10. ^ "Hall of Fame".
  11. ^ "Memories of Past members of the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  12. ^ Middleton, Christopher (25 February 2010). "My perfect weekend: Iain Stewart". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  13. ^ Horizon: Helike – The Real Atlantis, BBC Two 9.00pm Thursday 10 January 2002
  14. ^ Samantha Booth, Scots TV scientist Iain Stewart is on one-man mission to make geology sexy, Daily Record, 6 September 2008
  15. ^ Horizon: Earthquake Storms, BBC Two, Thursday 1 April 9 pm 2003
  16. ^ Rough Science: Iain's Diaries, BBC/Open University
  17. ^ Staff details plymouth.ac.uk
  18. ^ "BBC iPlayer - Error". BBC iPlayer.
  19. ^ Stewart on global warming YouTube.com
  20. ^ a b "No. 60534". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2013. p. 23.
  21. ^ Iain Stewart, University of Plymouth website, Undated.Accessed 3 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Athelstan Spilhaus Award". Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  23. ^ "2010 medals and awards". Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  24. ^ Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth, BBC / Open University
  25. ^ Hot Rocks: Geology of Civilization, Science Channel
  26. ^ "English Riviera Global Geopark - News". www.englishrivierageopark.org.uk.
  27. ^ Journeys into the Ring of Fire, BBC documentary.
  28. ^ Earth: The Power of the Planet, BBC
  29. ^ Earth – the power of the planet Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, University of Plymouth
  30. ^ "Earth: the biography". National Geographic Channel. Archived from the original on 3 September 2008.
  31. ^ "The Earth from birth". BBC. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  32. ^ Earth – The Climate Wars (BBC Press Office)
  33. ^ "Hot Planet". British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC One). Archived from the original on 21 April 2012.
  34. ^ "How the Earth Changed History". 29 June 2010 – via Amazon.
  35. ^ Grant, Olly (9 July 2012). "Volcano Live, BBC Two, preview". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  36. ^ "Swallowed by a Sinkhole". British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC Two). Retrieved 3 February 2014

External links[edit]