The Rolex Awards for Enterprise and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) are “kindred spirits” noted Michael Palin, co-host of a celebration to mark the 35th anniversary of the Awards at the London headquarters of 180-year-old institution, “the world’s leading scholarly geographical society” and the “home of geography”.

Palin, president of the Royal Geographical Society and renowned for his popular television series including Around the World in 80 Days, drew parallels between the Rolex philanthropic programme and the RGS: “They are both about extending our horizons – encouraging inspiration and innovation and new, original ways of thinking about the world.”

© Rolex Awards/Jess Hoffman

Representative of this innovative spirit at the dinner for nearly 100 guests were the six guests of honour, former Laureates and Young Laureates (from left to right): Michel André from France, Runa Khan Marre from Bangladesh, Rory Wilson from the U.K., Bruktawit Tigabu from Ethiopia, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu from Nigeria and Piyush Tewari from India.

Short films of their Rolex Award-winning projects demonstrated how they have developed effective solutions to some of today’s most pressing problems.

View their videos:

Michel André describes how ocean sounds help humans “see”

Runa Khan Marre tours her living museum of traditional boat-making

Rory Wilson demonstrates another use for his invention, the Daily Diary

Rebecca Irvin, head of philanthropy at Rolex, addressed the gathering:

“This is a moment of celebration both of the past and the future, emphasizing the enduring relationship between Rolex and the RGS that stretched back to the 1930s and included the ascent of the Everest summit by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. This event is also a celebration of the spirit of enterprise of the 115 remarkable men and women whom the Rolex Awards had supported over the past 35 years.”

Introducing each of the six guests of honour to the audience, Irvin praised the “imagination, courage and commitment” of these “amazing individuals” in advancing human knowledge and well-being. Representative of this same driving force were the two former Laureates attending the celebration, Les Stocker (1990 Rolex Awards), founder of the Wildlife Hospital Trust, and Georgina Herrmann (1996 Rolex Awards), former co-director of a project to explore the city of Merv in Turkmenistan.

Also among those present at the dinner were Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, physicist and author; glaciologist Dr Poul Christofferson from the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University; Dr Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum; Bettany Hughes, historian, author and broadcaster; Sir Roland Jackson, chief executive of the British Science Association; Bruce Parry, broadcaster and adventurer; Prof. Sir Ghillean Prance, botanist and ecologist; Dr Simon Stuart, chair of the Species Survival Commission, IUCN; Jock Wishart, maritime and polar adventurer; Gary Martin, director of the Global Diversity Foundation and a former Rolex Awards Jury member; Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum; and Antony Gormley, sculptor and honorary fellow of the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA).

Closing the proceedings, Rolex U.K. Managing Director Richard de Leyser remarked on the creativity and passion of Awards winners to make the world a better place. I am both “inspired and humbled” by their stories, he concluded.

The next Rolex Awards will be presented in late 2012 at a ceremony in India.

The RGS (with IBG – Institute of British Geographers) was founded in 1830.

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