YOU ARE HERE: Home > Awards and Grants > Awards, Medals and Prizes > Keith Runcorn honoured

I want information on:

Information for:

Awards, Medals and Prizes

Keith Runcorn honoured

In honour of the late Keith Runcorn, the Society's annual prize for the best PhD thesis in solar-system sciences and geophysics, it was decided by the RAS Council in December 2007, henceforth will be known as the RAS Keith Runcorn Prize


Stanley Keith Runcorn was born in Southport in 1922, and graduated in engineering at Cambridge in 1942. After a period in radar research during the war, he joined the Physics Department at Manchester University where he did research on aspects of the Earth’s magnetic field. This led to his interest in palaeomagnetism, the study of the magnetism of rocks, which he pursued first at the Geophysics Department in Cambridge and later at Newcastle, where he was appointed to the chair of Physics in 1956.


At Newcastle Runcorn developed a strong research group in geophysics, and made substantial contributions to various fields, including


  • convection in the Earth and Moon
  • the shape and magnetic fields of the Moon and planets
  • magnetohydrodynamics of the Earth’s core
  • earth currents
  • changes in the length of the day and polar wandering
  • continental drift and plate tectonics
He travelled widely, lecturing and attending conferences, and organized many international meetings at Newcastle, which became an internationally-known centre of geophysics and planetary physics.


Professor Runcorn received many honours, including Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1965, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Fleming medal of the American Geophysical Union. He was also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science. After his retirement in 1988 he continued to be active in various lines of research until his untimely death in San Diego in 1995.

The RAS awards two Thesis Prizes annually: the Michael Penston and Keith Runcorn Prizes respectively for the best doctoral theses in astronomy/astrophysics and solar-system sciences/geophysics.