John Hemming

John Hemming was educated at Eton College, McGill University and Oxford University, where he received a D. Litt in Modern History. He was Director and Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London, from 1975 to 1996, a time of great expansion in the society’s range of activities, membership and finance. RGS was particularly concerned with environmental issues in its many conferences and lectures, in papers in its three learned journals, and in its sponsored and supported field research. John was active in launching and organising the society’s multidisciplinary research projects in Mulu, Sarawak; Karakoram, Pakistan; Kora, Kenya; Wahibah, Oman; Kimberley, Australia; Mkomazi, Tanzania; and Temburong, Brunei. He was co-chairman of RGS’s Badia Research and Development Programme in Jordan and personally led the Maracá Rainforest Project in northern Brazil. This grew to be the largest research project ever organised in the Amazon basin by any European country, with some 150 scientists and 50 scientific technicians working from 1987 onwards, and an output of 15 books, hundreds of papers and extensive collections and scientific discoveries.

John has also been on many expeditions in Peru and Brazil, including the first exploration and mapping of the upper Iriri River. He visited or lived with over 40 tribes, four of them at the time of first contact. He is the author or editor of 16 books including The Conquest of the Incas, Red Gold, Amazon Frontier, Die If You Must: Brazilian Indians In The Twentieth Century, The Search for El Dorado, Change in the Amazon Basin, The Golden Age of Discovery, Naturalists in Paradise, Monuments of the Incas, People of the Rainforest and Tree of Rivers: the Story of the Amazon.

John has been active in many charitable organisations including serving as Trustee of The British Council, Earthwatch UK, Hakluyt Society, Cusichaca Trust, Rainforest Foundation, Anglo-Brazilian Society, and Pro-Natura International, among other organisations. John served as Chairman of the Anglo-Peruvian Society, President of the Rainforest Club, Deputy Chairman of Lepra, Chairman of the Amazon Charitable Trust and Founder Trustee of Survival. He has received numerous awards, including the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) from the British government, Orden al Mérito (Peru), Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul (Brazil) and El Sol del Peru (Peru); medals and awards from Royal Geographical Society, Boston Museum of Science, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Explorers Club (New York), Instituto Nacional de Cultura (Peru), Andean Explorers Club, President’s Medal from the British Academy; and literary prizes such as the Pitman Prize and the Christopher Medal (New York).

He holds honorary doctorates from PUC University (Peru) to Warwick and Stirling and was named Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. John was the chairman of Hemming Group Ltd. and of various publishing and exhibition-organising companies.