Each Year in early June, the RGSQ will award its Thomson Medal which honours the achievements of the Society’s founder, James Park Thomson (1854 -1941). The awarding of such a medal commenced in 1900. Up until then, the RGSQ had recognised contributions to geographical science and/or the Society only via Fellowships. However, the Council in 1900 decided to recognise its founding Secretary/Treasurer by the annual awarding of a medal, with Thomson himself being given the first. The initial idea was that the medal should be awarded for substantial contributions to geographical literature or eminent services to the RGSQ. Gold, silver and bronze impressions of the medal have been awarded over the decades, but recently successive Councils have only awarded gold impressions of the medal. Since the late 1980s, recipients of the medal have also been expected to deliver an address as part of the Society’s annual lecture program.
On the obverse side of the Thomson Medal is a bust of a middle-aged and bearded Thomson. On the reverse side there is a wreath composed of wattle, bottlebrush and Sturt’s desert pea, all Australian plants. Allan Wyon, Chief Engraver to Queen Victoria, engraved the first Thomson Medal. His bill of £84 has been preserved in the Society’s archives.
Past recipients of the medal fall into a number of categories. Some have included noted geographers such as Thomas Griffith Taylor (Australia’s first Professor of Geography) and John Oliver (climatologist and foundation Professor of Geography at James Cook University). Other medallists have provided excellent and sustained service to the RGSQ and include Sir Matthew Nathan (President 1920-1926 and instigator of The Queensland Place Names Committee and Great Barrier Reef Committee) and Mrs Henry Robertson (the Society’s first woman President from 1945 to 1951). Well-known individuals who advanced geographical knowledge such as Sir Douglas Mawson (for Antarctic exploration) and Bert Hinkler (for services to aviation) have also received a Thomson Medal.
The Society currently provides three annual prizes to high performing geography students at three Queensland Universities:
The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland prize for each university comprise $500 cash, an engraved medal and one year’s free membership to the RGSQ.
In 2014 the University of Queensland’s Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Prize was renamed in recognition of Keith Smith, RGSQ Life Member and Society Secretary/Manager from 1986 to 2012.
The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, Keith Smith Prize was established in 1969, and the prize is maintained by an annual donation from the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland.
It is awarded by the Head of School to the student with the most distinction in the courses comprising a major in Geography or Geographical Sciences.