Prof Richard Fortey

Professor Richard Fortey
  • Scientific Associate
  • Earth Sciences department
  • Invertebrates and Plants Division
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road


Employment History

2006 - present    Research Associate, Department of 
                               Paleontology, NHM 

2003 - 2006         Individual Merit Researcher, Department of 
                               Paleontology, NHM 

2002 - 2003         Collier Professor in the Public Understanding 
                               of Science and Technology, Bristol University,

1986 - 2002         Individual Merit Researcher, Department of Paleontology, NHM 

1980 -1986          Principal Scientific Officer, Department of Paleontology, NHM 

1973 -1980          Senior Scientific Officer, Department of Paleontology, NHM 

2000 - 2010         Senior Research Fellow, Department of Paleontology, NHM 


2000 - 2010        Honorary: Visiting Professor of Palaeobiology, Oxford University 

2010                     Professor, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, 


1968    BA       University of Cambridge 

1971    PhD    University of Cambridge 

1985    DSc    University of Cambridge 

1997    Fellow of the Royal Society 

Professional Roles

Professional Roles

  • President, Palaeontographical Society 2003 - 2008
  • President, Geological Society of London 2006 - 2008
  • Council, Royal Society 2001 - 2003
  • President, Palaeontological Association, 1994 -1995
  • Voting Member, Ordovician Subcommission 1990 - 2007
  • Commissioner, International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature 1997 - 2006

Honours and Awards

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature 2010
  • Doctor of Science, honoris causa Birmingham University 2010
  • Linnean Legacy Award, University of Arizona 2009
  • Honorary Fellow of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 2008
  • R C Moore Medal, Paleontological Society 2008
  • Neville George Medal, Glasgow Geological Society
  • Doctor of Science honoris causa Open University 2007
  • Doctor of Science honoris causa University of St Andrews 2007
  • Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture, Royal Society, 2006
  • Lewis Thomas Prize, Rockefeller University, 2004
  • Frink Medal, Zoological Society of London 2000
  • Linnean Medal for Zoology, Linnean Society of London
  • Lyell Medal, Geological Society of London 1996
  • Natural World Book of the year award 1993
  • Wollaston Fund, Geological Society of London, 1983

Public Understanding of Science

Seven books are in print designed to increase public awareness in geology, palaeontology, and the history of life.

  • Survivors: the animals and plants that time has left behind. Harper Press 2011
  • The Hidden Landscape Bodley Head 2010 (1st edn 1993)
  • Fossils: the key to the past (4th Edition) 2009 Natural History Museum (1st edn 1982)
  • Dry Store Room no. 1. Harper Collins 2008
  • The earth: an intimate history Harper Collins 2004
  • Trilobite! Eyewitness to evolution Harper Collins 2000
  • Life: an unauthorised biography. Jonathan Cape 1997


The Ordovician trilobites of Spitsbergen

Searching for Ordovician trilobites in Spitsbergen, the Artic.

Searching for Ordovician trilobites in Spitsbergen, the Artic.

This research is the completion of a major monograph on the Ordovician trilobites of Spitsbergen, one of the most diverse trilobite faunas in the world. Previous work has concentrated on the trilobites and graptolites of the Valhallfonna Formation, a unique succession from which trilobite biofacies were originally recognised by myself in the 1970s - a concept which has subsequently become generally recognised. More than 60 species were described from the Valhallfonna Formation. However, the underlying Kirtonryggen Formation received perfunctory treatment. It represents a shallow water palaeotropical assemblage dominated by bathyurid trilobites. These species are known from scattered localities in Greenland, Newfoundland, New York State and elsewhere; many forms are no more than fragments. The succession of faunas in northern Spitsbergen promises to provide the most complete stacking of different faunas, which should help to clarify both the taxonomy of the group and their stratigraphic order. This work is in conjunction with Professor David Bruton, University of Oslo, Norway.

Trilobite classification

Many trilobite groups are problematic with regard to their classification into natural clades. I have been running a long-term project designed to improve the situation, often with the help of research students. This is a contribution to work on the revision of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Although in my emeritus capacity I have no more students, results are still coming through, for example, on the notoriously difficult Family Asaphidae. I am also studying critical ‘linking’ species in strata of Tremadoc age, and particularly new discoveries in Morocco.


Recent publications

All publications

  • Fortey, R. ( 2011 ) Survivors: the animals and plants that time has left behind. Harper Press 336 .
  • Fortey, R. ( 2011 ) Surfing the lava (Review of Volcanoes, by R. Fisher et al.) .
  • Fortey, R.A. ( 2011 ) Lyell and deep time. Geoscientist 21 : 12 - 17 .
  • Fortey, RA, Heward, AP and Miller, CG. ( 2011 ) Sedimentary facies and trilobite and conodont faunas of the Ordovician Rann Formation, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. Geoarabia 16 : 127 - 152 .
  • Landing E. and Fortey, R.A. ( 2011 )  Tremadocian (Lower Ordovician) sea level changes and biotas on the Avalon microcontinent. Journal of Paleontology 85 : 678 - 694 .
  • Fortey, R ( 2010 ) Charles Darwin: the scientist as hero. Contributions to Science 5(2) : 183 - 191 .
  • Fortey, R.A. ( 2010 ) Trilobites of the genus Dikelokephalina from Ordovician Gondwana and Avalonia. Geological Journal 46 : 405 - 415 .
  • Fortey, R.A. ( 2010 ) Archives of life: science and collections  In Bryson, W. (ed), In: Seeing further (History of The Royal Society) . Harper Collins : London , 183 - 201 .