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Two academics honoured with Royal Society Fellows

Professor George Davey Smith

Professor Michael Kendall

Press release issued: 17 April 2019

Two University of Bristol academics, Professors George Davey Smith and Michael Kendall, have achieved the rare distinction of being elected Fellows of the world's most eminent scientific academy, the Royal Society, for their exceptional contributions to science.

George Davey Smith, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Director of the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit (MRC IEU), hosted by the Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences, has led important developments in our understanding of what determines – and how to prevent – ill-health within society. His research has focused on how social inequalities in health are generated by exposures over an entire life course, and the use of genetic data to improve understanding of how environmentally modifiable risk factors influence disease risk in populations.

He has contributed to over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications, and has worked on many international projects, ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention programmes in Nicaragua, research into the emerging non-communicable disease burden in India and studies of socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in health in the USA, India and several Nordic countries.  

Professor Davey Smith pioneered an innovative approach to epidemiological study, called Mendelian randomization, which leads to more valid inference about the causes and prevention of disease, and is now very widely used in studies internationally.

Professor Davey Smith said: "I am honoured to have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Working in the field I do is a team effort, involving many people who have skills I don't possess, and our work receiving recognition is a reflection of the fantastic environment for population health sciences that Bristol provides." 

Michael Kendall, BGS Professor of Geophysics and Head of the Geophysics Group in Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, is a seismologist whose research has led to discoveries in areas ranging from the Earth's crust to its core. He is a pioneer in the application of seismic anisotropy to better understand the dynamic behaviour of the Earth's boundaries on a range of scales.

From the Canadian Arctic to Ethiopia, Professor Kendall has worked internationally, providing new insights into the behaviour of tectonic plates. He has spent nearly 20 years working in East Africa, revealing the role of the mantle in the breakup of continents. His breakthroughs have come from an ability to translate discoveries and solve problems across disciplines, including volcanology and glaciology. Early in his career he recognised the importance of human-induced seismicity, working closely with industry and regulators across a range of applications.

Professor Kendall explained: "To reveal how the Earth works, I have studied its boundaries – but looking across disciplines with a wide range of people has been essential in pushing new boundaries. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have worked with talented young scientists and to have had very supportive and collaborative colleagues. I am really happy to have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society."

Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, added: "Over the course of the Royal Society's vast history, it is our Fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realised: to use science for the benefit of humanity. This year's newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry—epidemiology, geometry, climatology—at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live, and it is with great honour that I welcome them as Fellows of the Royal Society."

Further information

About the Royal Society
The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science. Each candidate is considered on his or her own merits and can be proposed from any sector of the scientific community. Every effort is made to encourage nominations of women candidates and candidates from the emerging disciplines.

  • There are approximately 1,600 Fellows and Foreign Members, including around 80 Nobel Laureates. Each year up to 52 Fellows and up to 10 Foreign Members are elected from a group of around 700 candidates who are proposed by the existing Fellowship.
  • Honorary Fellowship is intended for those who have given distinguished service to the cause of science, or who have brought great benefits to science, but who do not have the scientific achievements of the kind required of those who could be elected as Fellows or Foreign Members. Honorary Fellows include Bill Bryson and Melvyn Bragg.
  • New Fellows are formally admitted to the Society at the Admissions Day ceremony in July, when they sign the Charter Book and the Obligation of the Fellows of the Royal Society.
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