W. Brian Harland

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W. Brian Harland
Born Walter Brian Harland
(1917-03-22)22 March 1917
Scarborough, United Kingdom
Died 1 November 2003(2003-11-01) (aged 86)
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Geology
Institutions University of Cambridge
Alma mater Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
Notable awards Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society (1968)
Lyell Medal (1976)

Walter Brian Harland (22 March 1917 – 1 November 2003) was a geologist at the University of Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences, England.[1] In 1968, he was honoured with the Royal Geographical Society Gold Medal for Arctic exploration and research.

Personal background[edit]

Harland was born in Scarborough, and educated at Bootham School[2][3] in York and Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, where he graduated in Geological Sciences and took his PhD; from 1950 until his death. He was deeply interested in the interactions between science, philosophy, and religion, and for most of his life was a Quaker.,[2]

Professional background[edit]

In Cambridge, Harland was instrumental in the establishment of the Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme (CASP).[citation needed] He played an early role in the avocation of the theory of continental drift and making the first observations of the global occurrence of glaciation, which were to form the foundations of Snowball Earth theory. He was also a figure in the ongoing maintenance of the International Geologic timescale.Template:Citation neded

He also spent 43 field seasons in the geological mapping of the Polar archipelago of Svalbard, beginning in 1938 and ending in the 1980s, leading 29 expeditions. The ice field "Harlandisen" on the main island of Spitsbergen is named in his honour.[citation needed] The University retains a collection of some 70,000 specimens collected over these years.[citation needed]

Harland spent much of the Second World War teaching at West China University, now known as the Chengdu University of Technology, and later in life would become a trustee of the Needham Research Institute and a fellow of Caius.[citation needed]


In 1968, Dr. W. Brian Harland received the Royal Geographical Society Founders Gold Medal for Arctic exploration and research.[4]


  1. ^ "W. B. Harland - Obituaries, News". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  2. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ Woodland, Jenny, ed. (2011). Bootham School Register. York, England: Bootham Old Scholars Association. OCLC 844773709. 
  4. ^ Gold Medal recipients, Royal Geographic Society. Retrieved 2011-02-02.

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