Keith O'Nions

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Sir Robert Keith O'Nions
Born (1944-09-26) 26 September 1944 (age 77)
Alma materUniversity of Nottingham
University of Alberta
AwardsBigsby Medal (1983)
Holmes Medal (1995)
Lyell Medal (1995)
Knight Bachelor (1999)
Urey Medal (2001)
HonFREng[1] (2005)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Alberta
University of Oslo
University of Oxford
Imperial College London
Columbia University
University of Cambridge
ThesisGeochronology of the Bamble sector of the Baltic Shield, South Norway (1969)
Doctoral advisorRoger D. Morton

Sir Robert Keith O'Nions FRS Hon.FREng[1] (born 26 September 1944),[2] is a British scientist and ex-President & Rector of Imperial College London. He is the former director general of the research councils as well as Professor of the Physics and Chemistry of Minerals and was head of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford.[3]

Early life[edit]

He attended Yardley Grammar School in Birmingham. He studied geology as an undergraduate at the University of Nottingham, receiving a PhD at the University of Alberta before taking up a postdoctoral position at the University of Oslo.


He taught geochemistry at the University of Oxford from 1971 to 1975, when he became a professor of geology at Columbia University, a post he held until 1979 when he became a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Cambridge. He remained there until 1995, when he returned to Oxford to take up the professorship.

He was knighted in 1999, and from 2000 to 2004 he was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence. After a period as director-general of the research council (United Kingdom)s, he was appointed to lead the newly formed Institute for Security Science and Technology at Imperial College, London in July 2008.[4]

On 1 January 2010, following the resignation of Sir Roy Anderson, he became the acting Rector of Imperial College London,[3] in July 2010 he was appointed to a full term as Rector, to run until September 2014.[5]`

Honours and awards[edit]

Year Honour awarded
1999 Knight Batchelor - Services to Earth Science (Birthday Honours)
2000 Honorary Fellow, University of Cardiff
2004 Honorary Doctor of Science, Herriot-Watt University
2005 Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Glasgow
2005 Honorary Doctor of Science, Royal Holloway
2005 Docteur Honoris Causa, University of Paris
2006 Honorary Doctor of Science, Loughborough University
2007 Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Alberta
2007 Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Edinburgh
2007 Honorary Doctor of Science, Abertay University
2009 Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Nottingham
2010 Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Birmingham
2018 Honorary Doctor of Science, Imperial College London
2019 Honorary Doctor of Letters, Nanyang Technological University


In 1979, O'Nions was the recipient of the James B Macelwane Award handed down by the American Geophysical Union, followed a few years later with a Bigsby Medal in 1983 presented by the Geological Society of London. In 1985, O'Nions was named Hallimond Lecturer by the Mineralogical Society and in 1986, was named both UK-Canada Rutherford Lecturer by the Royal Society and William Smith Lecturer by the Geological Society of London.

O'Nions was further named Ingerson Lecturer by the Geological Society of America in 1990, and in 1995 he was awarded with the Arthur Holmes Medal by the European Union of Geosciences and the Lyell Medal by the Geological Society of London. In 1998, Australian National University named O'Nions as Jaeger-Hales Lecturer, while in 2001 he won the Urey Medal, presented by the European Association of Geochemistry. He was named Bruce Peller Prize Lecturer by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2004, and appointed as a HonFREng[1] of the Royal Academy of Engineering[1] in 2005. He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.[6]

In September 2017 he was appointed by Natural Environment Research Council as Chair of the new British Geological Survey board.[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1967 he married Bill Rita with whom he has had three daughters.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "List of Fellows".
  2. ^ a b The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. 2003. p. 1257. ISBN 1-85743-217-7.
  3. ^ a b Professor Sir Keith O'Nions FRS, Imperial College, London, UK.
  4. ^ Sir Keith O'Nions appointed Director of new security research institute at Imperial College, News and Events, Imperial College, London, 22 July 2008.
  5. ^ Sir Keith O’Nions appointed Rector of Imperial College London, News release, Imperial College, 9 July 2010.
  6. ^ "Gruppe 3: Geofag" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
  7. ^ "New board created for the British Geological Survey" (PDF). Retrieved 18 April 2019.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Rector of Imperial College London
2010 – 2014
Succeeded by