Iain Stewart (geologist)

For other people called Iain Stewart, see Iain Stewart.
Iain Simpson Stewart

1964 (age 5152)

East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Residence Plymouth
Citizenship United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Geology
Institutions University of Plymouth
Alma mater University of Strathclyde, Bristol University
Thesis The evolution of neotectonic normal fault scarps in the Aegean Region (1990)
Doctoral advisor Paul Hancock
John Thornes
Known for

Iain Simpson Stewart, MBE FGS (born 1964)[1] is a Scottish geologist, a Fellow of the Geological Society of London and President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He is 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, including the BAFTA nominated[4] Earth: The Power of the Planet.

Early life and education

Stewart was born in 1964 in East Kilbride, in Lanarkshire,[5] to Sheena and Jack.[6] 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 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."[7]

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.[8] Amongst his contemporaries at the East Kilbride Rep Theatre was the actor John Hannah.[9] 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".[10] 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.[11]

Early broadcasting

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 tidal wave in 373 BCE, newly rediscovered in 2001.[12] This, he says, "gave me a hunger to get more geology on telly."[13] He featured in another Horizon film, on earthquake storms, in April 2003,[14] 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.[15]


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.[16] Stewart also specialises in geology's effect on culture and religion throughout the history of the world.[17] He appears in other roles, including as a scientific commentator.[18]

Stewart was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to geology and science communication.[19]

Other activities

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.[20]


Selected broadcasts

Major publications

Honours and awards

In 2010 Stewart was recognised by the Royal Geographical Society for "popularising geography and earth sciences."[34] He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to geology and science communication.[19] In 2013 Stewart was the recipient of the Athelstan Spilhaus Award by the American Geophysical Union.[35]


  1. "Iain Stewart". 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. "Biography". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  6. "Eaglesham pupils help launch windfarm activity programme". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  7. "I don't get recognised much, I'm not in the same league as Brian Cox". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  8. Clip from Huntingtower YouTube.com
  9. Hall of Fame
  10. "Memories of Past members of the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences" (PDF). Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  11. Middleton, Christopher (25 February 2010). "My perfect weekend: Iain Stewart". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  12. Horizon: Helike – The Real Atlantis, BBC Two 9.00pm Thursday 10 January 2002
  13. Samantha Booth, Scots TV scientist Iain Stewart is on one-man mission to make geology sexy, Daily Record, 6 September 2008
  14. Horizon: Earthquake Storms, BBC Two, Thursday 1 April 9 pm 2003
  15. Rough Science: Iain's Diaries, BBC/Open University
  16. Staff details plymouth.ac.uk
  17. BBC – BBC Four Documentaries – Journeys From the Centre of the Earth – Dr Iain Stewart
  18. Stewart on global warming YouTube.com
  19. 1 2 The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60534. p. 23. 15 June 2013.
  20. Iain Stewart, University of Plymouth website, Undated.Accessed 3 February 2012.
  21. Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth, BBC / Open University
  22. Hot Rocks: Geology of Civilization, Science Channel
  23. Biography, English Riviera Geopark
  24. Journeys into the Ring of Fire, BBC documentary.
  25. Earth: The Power of the Planet, BBC
  26. Earth – the power of the planet, University of Plymouth
  27. Earth: the biography, National Geographic Channel
  28. "The Earth from birth". BBC. December 14, 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  29. Earth – The Climate Wars (BBC Press Office)
  30. "Hot Planet". British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC One). Archived from the original on 21 April 2012.
  31. http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Changed-History-Iain-Stewart/dp/B003DC8824
  32. Grant, Olly (9 July 2012). "Volcano Live, BBC Two, preview". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  33. "Swallowed by a Sinkhole". British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC Two). Retrieved 3 February 2014
  34. "2010 medals and awards". Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  35. "Athelstan Spilhaus Award". Retrieved 6 August 2013.
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