By Stan Paul
Since the 1830s, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) has presented gold “Royal Medals” to individuals for outstanding achievement in the field of geography. Among past winners are renowned explorer David Livingstone and, more recently, Sir David Attenborough. The awards recognize excellence in geographical research and fieldwork as well as teaching and public engagement.
This year the RGS, with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG), have awarded the Founder’s Medal to Michael Storper, Distinguished Professor of Regional and International Development in the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The award is for his “leadership in human and economic geography,” according to the Society’s announcement.
The medals, approved by Queen Elizabeth II, are considered “the most prestigious medals awarded and one of the world’s highest accolades in geography,” according to the RGS-IBG. The two gold medals originated in 1831 as an annual gift of 50 guineas. In 1839 the gift to the society from King William IV became the two gold medals awarded since that time. Bob Geldof received this year’s other award, the Patron’s Medal.
“Michael Storper’s research has enhanced our understanding of the significance of the region and the importance of regional economies,” Nicholas Crane, president of the Royal Geographical Society, said in making the announcement.
Crane recognized Storper’s “pioneering research” on the role of informal institutions, as well as on the geography of clusters and innovation. “Michael has been at the forefront of setting up the theoretical and empirical framework of modern economic geography, and his work has inspired a generation of geographers,” Crane said.
Storper, who received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, is an international scholar who focuses his research and teaching on the closely linked areas of economic geography, globalization, technology, city regions and economic development. In addition to teaching at UCLA, Storper holds faculty appointments at the London School of Economics, where he is professor of economic geography, and France’s Institute of Political Studies, better known as “Sciences Po,” as professor of economic sociology.
“Our research is essential to helping humanity find pathways to more just and peaceful societies that respect the environment and are based on respect for all peoples,” said Storper. “I am honored to take my place among other geographers recognized by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for their contributions to our discipline and our commitment to making a better world through geographical research.”
The Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs was recently named the most influential planning school in North America based on citations of planning scholarship. In the same study, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Storper was listed as the second-most-cited planning scholar among more than 900 scholars evaluated in the analysis.
Storper’s most recent book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles” (Stanford University Press, 2015), co-authored with Tom Kemeny, Naji Makarem and Taner Osman, analyzes the economic development policies, and divergent outcomes of the regions since the 1970s.
“We are so proud of and happy for our colleague, Professor Michael Storper, on this momentous award!” said Lois Takahashi, Interim Dean of the Luskin School. “In addition to his groundbreaking scholarship, Michael makes huge contributions to practice and policy. He is a thought leader, critic and innovator in policy and practice circles in the region, state and nation. And, he contributes in innumerable ways to the life and culture of UCLA Luskin. We celebrate with him on this amazing announcement!”
The gold medals will be awarded June 6 in London at the Society’s annual meeting.
Storper was elected to the British Academy in 2012 and received the Regional Studies Association’s award for overall achievement as well as the Sir Peter Hall Award in the House of Commons in 2012. In 2014 he was named one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters. The author of “Keys to the City” (Princeton University Press, 2013), Storper received an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in 2008. He also serves as director of Global Public Affairs @ UCLA Luskin.