Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

The Department of Geography is one of the constituent departments of the University of Cambridge and is located on the Downing Site. The department has long had an international reputation as a leading centre of research and is consistently ranked as one of the best geography departments in the UK. In 2013 the department was ranked by The Guardian University Rankings as the best geography undergraduate degree in the country.[1]

Department of Geography
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Head of DepartmentProfessor Bill Adams
United Kingdom

52°12′06″N 0°07′25″E / 52.2018°N 0.1236°ECoordinates: 52°12′06″N 0°07′25″E / 52.2018°N 0.1236°E


There is a long tradition of geography at Cambridge stretching back to the first University Lecturer in Geography appointed in 1888. Teaching was initially for a special examination leading to a diploma in geography. The Geographical Tripos - the examination for a B.A. degree - was established in 1919. In 1931 the first professor was appointed and in 1933 the department moved into its own accommodation. That building, which now constitutes the eastern end of the department, was considerably extended in the 1930s, with the construction of new lecture theatres and laboratories. In the 1980s, the building was further extended with the addition of a top floor to provide a new laboratory for computing, remote sensing and geographical information systems. In 1999 the department expanded again, to occupy two floors in an adjacent building where new laboratories, seminar rooms and offices are housed.

Since then, the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure and the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies have been integrated into the teaching and research activities of the Department (2001), and the Scott Polar Research Institute become a sub-department in 2002. Today, the Department has 35 academic staff including ten professors and four readers.


Scott Polar Research Institute - - 1480014
Scott Polar Research Institute, a sub-department of the Department of Geography

Research in the department is organised in the following research clusters:

  • Spaces of Economy & Society
  • Historical & Cultural Geography
  • Society, Environment & Development
  • Environmental Processes
  • Glacial & Quaternary

Notable alumni and staff

The department has produced a large range of notable alumni, including David Harvey, the world's most cited academic geographer, and winner of the Lauréat Prix International de Géographie Vautrin Lud. Other notable alumni and staff include:

Richard Chorley
Richard Chorley, leading figure in the late 20th century for his work in quantitative geography
Sir Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall, town planner and urbanist
David Harvey2
David Harvey, the world's most cited academic geographer
James Mann Wordie - c. 1914
Sir James Wordie, Scottish polar explorer and geologist


  1. ^ University guide 2013: Geography and environmental studies. The Guardian (22 May 2012) (accessed 14 May 2013)

External links

Anglian stage

The Anglian Stage is the name used in the British Isles for a middle Pleistocene glaciation. It precedes the Hoxnian Stage and follows the Cromerian Stage in the British Isles. The Anglian Stage is correlated to Marine Isotope Stage 12 (MIS 12), which started about 478,000 years ago and ended about 424,000 years ago.The Anglian stage has often been correlated to the Elsterian Stage of northern Continental Europe and the Mindel Stage in the Alps. However, there is ambiguity regarding the correlation of these two glacials to either MIS 12 or MIS 10, as described in more detail in the article 'Elster glaciation'.The Anglian was the most extreme glaciation during the last 2 million years. In Britain the ice sheet reached the Isles of Scilly and the Western Approaches, the furthest south the ice reached in any Pleistocene ice age. In the south-east of England it diverted the River Thames from its old course through the Vale of St Albans south to its present position.This stage had been equated to the Kansan Stage in North America. However, the terms Kansan Stage, along with Yarmouth, Nebraskan, and Aftonian stages, have been abandoned by North American Quaternary geologists and merged into the Pre-Illinoian stage. The Anglian Stage is now correlated with the period of time which includes the Pre-Illinoian B glaciation of North America.

Ash Amin

Ash Amin, (born 31 October 1955) is a British Indian academic known for his writing on urban and regional development, contemporary cultural change, progressive politics, and the collaborative economy. He holds the 1931 chair at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. Since September 2015 he has held the post of foreign secretary of the British Academy.

Beestonian stage

The Beestonian Stage is an early Pleistocene stage used in the British Isles. It is named after Beeston Cliffs near West Runton in Norfolk where deposits from this stage are preserved.

The Beestonian precedes the Cromerian Stage and follows the Pastonian Stage. This stage consists of alternating glacial and interglacial phases instead of being a continuous glacial epoch. It is equivalent to Marine isotope stages 22 to (60?). The Beestonian Stage and Marine Isotope Stage 22 ended about 866,000 years ago.The Beestonian corresponds temporally to the Danube Stage in the glacial history of the Alpine region. Based on finding in the Low Countries, the corresponding stage in northern continental Europe is divided into four stages, the Bavelian, Menapian, Waalian, and Eburonian.The Beestonian had also been equated to the Nebraskan glaciation in North America. However, the Nebraskan Stage, along with the Kansan and Aftonian Stages, have been abandoned by North American Quaternary geologists and merged into the Pre-Illinoian Stage. At this time, the Beestonian stage is correlated with the period of time, which includes the Pre-Illinoian F, Pre-Illinoian G, and Pre-Illinoian H glaciations of North America.

Bramertonian Stage

The Bramertonian Stage is the name for an early Pleistocene biostratigraphic stage in the British Isles. It precedes the Pre-Pastonian Stage (Baventian Stage). It derives its name from Bramerton Pits in Norfolk, where the deposits can be found on the surface. The exact timing of the beginning and end of the Bramertonian Stage is currently unknown. It is only known that it is equivalent to the Tiglian C1-4b Stage of Europe and early Pre-Illinoian Stage of North America. It lies somewhere in time between Marine Oxygen Isotope stages 65 to 95 and somewhere between 1.816 and 2.427 Ma (million years ago). The Bramertonian is correlated with the Antian stage identified from pollen assemblages in the Ludham borehole.

During this stage, the climate was temperate with evidence for mixed oak forest in southern England and the arrival of hemlock. Evidence from East Anglia suggests sea levels were higher than they are today.

Cromer Forest Bed

The Cromer Forest Bed consists of river gravels, estuary and floodplain sediments and muds along the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk. It dates to the Pleistocene between 2.5 and 0.5 million years ago. For many years the bed, named after the local town of Cromer, has been famous for its assemblage of fossil mammal remains, containing, for example, isolated bones and teeth, jaw bones, and the antlers of deer. Although most of the forest bed is now obscured by coastal defence, the Cromer Forest Bed continues to be eroded and is rich in fossils including the skeletal remains of the West Runton Mammoth which was discovered in 1990.

Hoxnian Stage

The Hoxnian Stage is a middle Pleistocene stage (Pleistocene from 2.588 ± .005 million to 11,700 years BP) of the geological history of the British Isles. It precedes the Wolstonian Stage and follows the Anglian Stage. It is equivalent to Marine Isotope Stage 11. Marine Isotope Stage 11 started 424,000 years ago and ended 374,000 years ago. The Hoxnian divided into sub-stages Ho I to Ho IV.The Hoxnian stage has often been correlated to the Holstein Interglacial of northern Continental Europe and the Mindel-Riss Interglacial of the Alps. However, there is ambiguity regarding the correlation of these two interglacials to either MIS 11 or MIS 9, which is related to the MIS 12 / MIS 10 ambiguity described in more detail in the article 'Elster glaciation'.The Hoxnian stage has also been equated to the Yarmouthian (Yarmouth) Stage in North America. However, the Yarmouthian Stage, along with the Kansan, Nebraskan, and Aftonian stages, have been abandoned by North American Quaternary geologists and merged into the Pre-Illinoian Stage. At this time, the Hoxnian and Holstein stages are correlated with a brief part of the Pre-Illinoian Stage lying between the Pre-Illinoian A and Pre-Illinoian B glaciations of North America.The Hoxnian Stage is named after Hoxne in the English county of Suffolk where some of the deposits it created were first found. Plant and vertebrate fossils indicate that it was a period of relatively warm climate. Clactonian and Acheulean flint tools and early human remains have been found dating to this stage.

Illinoian (stage)

The Illinoian Stage is the name used by Quaternary geologists in North America to designate the period c.191,000 to c.130,000 years ago, during the middle Pleistocene, when sediments comprising the Illinoian Glacial Lobe were deposited. It precedes the Sangamonian Stage and follows the Pre-Illinoian Stage in North America. The Illinoian Stage is defined as the period of geologic time during which the glacial tills and outwash, which comprise the bulk of the Glasford Formation, accumulated to create the Illinoian Glacial Lobe. It occurs at about the same time as the penultimate glacial period.

Kansan glaciation

The Kansan glaciation or Kansan glacial (see Pre-Illinoian) was a glacial stage and part of an early conceptual climatic and chronological framework composed of four glacial and interglacial stages.

Littoral zone

The littoral zone or nearshore is the part of a sea, lake or river which is close to the shore. In coastal environments the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged. It always includes this intertidal zone and is often used to mean the same as the intertidal zone. However, the meaning of "littoral zone" can extend well beyond the intertidal zone.

There is no single definition. What is regarded as the full extent of the littoral zone, and the way the littoral zone is divided into subregions, varies in different contexts (lakes and rivers have their own definitions). The use of the term also varies from one part of the world to another, and between different disciplines. For example, military commanders speak of the littoral in ways that are quite different from marine biologists.

The adjacency of water gives a number of distinctive characteristics to littoral regions. The erosive power of water results in particular types of landforms, such as sand dunes, and estuaries. The natural movement of the littoral along the coast is called the littoral drift. Biologically, the ready availability of water enables a greater variety of plant and animal life, and particularly the formation of extensive wetlands. In addition, the additional local humidity due to evaporation usually creates a microclimate supporting unique types of organisms.

The word "littoral" is used both as a noun and an adjective. It derives from the Latin noun litus, litoris, meaning "shore". (The doubled 't' is a late medieval innovation and the word is sometimes seen in the more classical-looking spelling 'litoral'.)

Pastonian Stage

The Pastonian interglacial, now called the Pastonian Stage (from Paston, Norfolk), is the name for an early or middle Pleistocene stage used in the British Isles. It precedes the Beestonian Stage and follows the Pre-Pastonian Stage. Unfortunately the precise age of this stage cannot yet be defined in terms of absolute dating or MIS stages. The Pre-Pastonian Stage is equivalent to the Tiglian C5-6 Stage of Europe and the Pre-Illinoian I glaciation of the early Pre-Illinoian Stage of North America.Deciduous woodland, increased including species such as Hornbeam (Carpinus), Elm (Ulmus), Hazel (Corylus), and Spruce (Picea). Towards the end of the period, there is evidence for a fall in sea levels and an increase in grassland species.


A pond is an area filled with water, either natural or artificial, that is usually smaller than a lake. It may arise naturally in floodplains as part of a river system, or be a somewhat isolated depression (such as a vernal pool or prairie pothole). It may contain shallow water with marsh and aquatic plants and animals.Factors impacting the type of life found in a pond include depth and duration of water level, nutrient level, shade, presence or absence of inlets and outlets, effects of grazing animals, and salinity.Ponds are frequently man-made, or expanded beyond their original depth and bounds. Among their many uses, ponds provide water for agriculture and livestock, aid in habitat restoration, serve as fish hatcheries, are components of landscape architecture, may store thermal energy as solar ponds, and treat wastewater as treatment ponds.

Ponds are characteristically categorized separately from flowing watercourses such as brooks, creeks, streams or rivers. Ponds may be fresh, saltwater, or brackish.


The Pre-Illinoian Stage is used by Quaternary geologists for the early and middle Pleistocene glacial and interglacial periods of geologic time in North America from ~2.5–0.2 Ma (million years ago).

Pre-Pastonian Stage

The Pre-Pastonian Stage or Baventian Stage (from Easton Bavents in Suffolk), is the name for an early Pleistocene stage used in the British Isles. It precedes the Pastonian Stage and follows the Bramertonian Stage. This stage ended 1.806 Ma (million years ago) at the end of Marine Isotope Stage 65. It is not currently known when this stage started. The Pre-Pastonian Stage is equivalent to the Tiglian C4c Stage of Europe and the Pre-Illinoian J glaciation of the early Pre-Illinoian Stage of North America.Pollen evidence indicates that there were climatic fluctuations from cooler to warmer climates throughout this stage.

Ron Martin (geographer)

Ronald Leonard Martin FBA FAcSS (born 17 April 1948) is professor of economic geography at the Department of Geography University of Cambridge. He is a fellow of the Cambridge-MIT Institute, research associate of the Centre for Business Research and professorial fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge.

Martin's research focuses on the geographies of work and of financial systems, regional economic development, economic theory and economic geography, and the interface between geography and public policy. He is the editor of the journal Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, published by Oxford University Press. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2005, and awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship for 2007-2010.Outside of his academic work, he is an associate director of the Local Futures Group, an economic-geographic consultancy.


The Sangamonian Stage (or Sangamon interglacial) is the term used in North America to designate the last interglacial period. In its most common usage, it is used for the period of time between 75,000 and 125,000 BP. This period of time is equivalent to all of Marine Isotope Stage 5 and the combined Eemian period and early part of the Weichselian glaciation in Europe. Less commonly, the Sangamonian Stage is restricted to the period between 122,000 and 132,000 BP, which is equivalent to Marine Oxygen Isotope Substage 5e and the Eemian period of Europe. It preceded the Wisconsinan (Wisconsin) Stage and followed the Illinoian Stage in North America.


A swamp is a wetland that is forested. Many swamps occur along large rivers where they are critically dependent upon natural water level fluctuations. Other swamps occur on the shores of large lakes. Some swamps have hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodic inundation or soil saturation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp forests and "transitional" or shrub swamps. In the boreal regions of Canada, the word swamp is colloquially used for what is more correctly termed a bog, fen, or muskeg. The water of a swamp may be fresh water, brackish water or seawater. Some of the world's largest swamps are found along major rivers such as the Amazon, the Mississippi, and the Congo.

Timeline of glaciation

There have been five or six major ice ages in the history of Earth over the past 3 billion years.

The Late Cenozoic Ice Age began 34 million years ago, its latest phase being the Quaternary glaciation, in progress since 2.58 million years ago.

Within ice ages, there exist periods of more severe glacial conditions and more temperate referred to as glacial periods and interglacial periods, respectively. The Earth is currently in such an interglacial period of the Quaternary glaciation, with the last glacial period of the Quaternary having ended approximately 11,700 years ago, the current interglacial being known as the Holocene epoch.

Based on climate proxies, paleoclimatologists study the different climate states originating from glaciation.

Wolstonian Stage

The Wolstonian Stage is a middle Pleistocene stage of the geological history of earth that precedes the Ipswichian Stage (Eemian Stage in Europe) and follows the Hoxnian Stage in the British Isles. The Wolstonian Stage apparently includes three periods of glaciation. The Wolstonian Stage is temporally analogous to the Warthe Stage and Saalian Stage in northern Europe and the Riss glaciation in the Alps, and temporally equivalent to all of the Illinoian Stage and the youngest part of the Pre-Illinoian Stage in North America. It is contemporaneous with the North American Pre-Illinoian A, Early Illinoian, and Late Illinoian glaciations. The Wolstonian Stage is equivalent to Marine Isotope stages 6 through 10. It started 352,000 years ago and ended 130,000 years ago.The Wolstonian Stage was named after the site of Wolston in the English county of Warwickshire where corresponding deposits were first identified. Acheulian flint tools have been found in Wolstonian deposits.

Yarmouthian (stage)

The Yarmouthian stage and the Yarmouth Interglacial were part of a now obsolete geologic timescale of the early Quaternary of North America.

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