School of Geography

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Below you will find a timeline of geography at Queen Mary.



People's Palace is born

The People’s Palace is born – a philanthropic organization designed to bring culture, recreation and education to the East End. 


Geography being taught

First reference to geography teaching at the People’s Palace Technical Schools. 


East London Technical College

The People’s Palace Technical Schools is renamed East London Technical College.


East London College

East London Technical College becomes East London College. 


Intermediate examination

Teaching of geography for the intermediate examination begins.


Teaching to degree level

Geography first taught to general degree level in a joint Geography and Geology Department under the responsibility of geology lecturer Rev W.L. Carter.



University of London

East London College is admitted as a school of the University of London.


Herbert G. Smith

Herbert G. Smith is appointed as Head of Department – under his headship geography becomes a firmly established degree subject. 


Teaching at Honours degree level

Geography first taught at honours degree level. Smith teaches all the physical geography, and A.L. Higgins from the Department of Civil Engineering is responsible for surveying. To cater for human and regional geography teaching, Eva G.R. Taylor is appointed, followed by Bessie Tunstall in 1924. 


Queen Mary College

East London College becomes Queen Mary College (QMC), now employing two geography staff members, John H.G. Lebon and Alice F.A. Mutton, and producing around five graduates a year. 


Beginnings of GeogSoc

The Geographical and Geological Student Society is established. 


Evacuation to Cambridge

Britain is at war and students from QMC are evacuated to King’s College, Cambridge. 


Geology and Geography separate

Herbert Smith retires and the joint department formally splits. J.F. Kirkaldy is appointed as Head of Geology, along with Percy F. Crowe as Head of Geography. 


Cartographer appointed

Eileen Harvey becomes the first non-academic staff member appointed to the department as a cartographer. 


Postgraduate teaching begins

First postgraduate student H. Pat White is awarded an MA. 



First PhD awarded

Arthur E. Smailes becomes Head of Department and first Professor of Geography at QMC. First PhD awarded to Parbati Sircar.


Present Geography building opens

Moved into new premises, designed to house an annual intake of 35 students, opened officially in 1964 by Professor L. Dudley Stamp – one of the internationally best-known British geographers of the 20th century. 


Course-unit degrees

First course-unit degrees are awarded, enabling geography to be combined with most other subjects taught at QMC. 


Second Professor appointed

Eric Rawstron becomes the second Professor of Geography at Queen Mary College. At this point, geography was one of the largest departments at QMC. 


Geography joins Faculty of Social Sciences

Following A.E. Smailes’ retirement, Eric Rawstron becomes Head of Department. The Faculty of Social Sciences is created to which geography is transferred. Annual undergraduate intake increases to 60. 


E.M. Rawstron retires

David M. Smith becomes Head of Department. 


Geography and Earth Science

The Department of Geology ceases to exist. Four members of Geology join the Department of Geography which is then renamed the Department of Geography and Earth Science. 


Environmental Science degree begins

The Environmental Science degree and two academic staff, John Allen and Brian Alloway, transfer from Westfield College to Queen Mary. 


New Head of Department

Bruce W. Atkinson becomes Head of Department. 


Environmental Science degrees

First Environmental Science degrees are awarded at Queen Mary. 


Department of Geography

Name reverts to Department of Geography retaining some space acquired from the geology department. 


Queen Mary College and Westfield College

J. Murray Gray becomes Head of Department; the merger of Queen Mary College and Westfield College takes place this year. 


New Head of Department

Philip E. Ogden becomes Head of Department. 


A Century of Geography

June Sheppard publishes A Century of Geography for the department’s centenary celebrations. Annual undergraduate intake is around 125. Rita Gardner is appointed as Director of Environmental Science Unit. 


Queen Mary geographer heads RGS

Nigel Spence becomes Head of Department. Rita Gardner is appointed as Director of Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). 

A world-leading school



Queen Mary and Westfield College becomes Queen Mary University of London. Roger Lee appointed as Head of Department. 


Expansion into Bancroft building

Jaap van der Meer becomes Head of Department. A footbridge is built, connecting the Geography and Bancroft buildings. The opening of the Physical Geography Laboratories also takes place this year, representing a major expansion of space. The first David M. Smith lecture is given this year by Doreen Massey. 


The Living Wage

QMUL becomes the first university in the UK to commit to paying the real Living Wage, following research undertaken in the City Centre – a new research centre launched within the department and designed to provide space for collaborative research that is focused on the city, urban politics, socio-economic exclusion and livelihoods, economic geographies, diaspora, migration and more. 


New Head of Department

Adrian Smith becomes Head of Department. 


Joint first in the UK

Stellar performance in the Research Assessment Exercise ranks geography at Queen Mary joint first in the UK. 


School of Geography

Department of Geography is renamed to School of Geography. 


New Head of School

Miles Ogborn becomes Head of School. 


Russell Group

QMUL joins the Russell Group. 


QMUL degrees

QMUL begins to award its own degrees. 


Students' work displayed at City Hall

Alison Blunt becomes first female Head of School of Geography. QMUL is ranked 9th in the UK amongst multi-faculty universities for the quality of our research in the latest Research Excellence Framework. The opening of the School’s refurbished laboratory facilities including the River Lab also takes place this year. Exhibition by first-year students on ‘Reimagining London’ as the world’s first national park city is displayed at City Hall. 


Equality award

The School receives Athena SWAN bronze award. 


Student numbers continue to increase

Annual intake of undergraduate students nears 200. The Graduate Centre – a new hub for postgraduate study – opens on the Mile End campus. 


New Head of School

Alastair Owens becomes Head of School. 


125 years of geography

125 years of geography teaching at Queen Mary. 

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