Meet Iain Stewart

Bringing geology to people who didn't know they were interested in geology - meet Iain Stewart, former child actor and rock doctor.

By: Dr Iain Stewart (University of Plymouth)

  • Duration 5 mins
  • Updated Thursday 16th September 2004
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under TV, Radio & Events
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Iain on location Copyrighted image Copyright: Production team

I guess that even as a university academic I was a frustrated presenter. As a former child actor with an Equity card, I dodged the precarious glare of the footlights, turning instead to academia on the grounds that lecturing was just performing but with a steady income.

The academic road began in 1986 when I graduated with a degree in Geology & Geography from Strathclyde University in Glasgow and moved to the University of Bristol to start a PhD on the geology of earthquakes in Greece and Turkey. After finishing my PhD in 1990, I headed to London to start teaching geology and physical geography at a small college, West London Institute, before it merged with Brunel University in Uxbridge.

In 2002, as Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences, I had a mid-life crisis. Keen to pursue media interests, I left Brunel - moving back north to take up an Honorary Research Fellow post in the Centre for Geosciences at Glasgow University. Much of the time at Glasgow was actually spent journeying south to London to sell the idea of a geology series to anyone willing to listen.

Thankfully, someone at the BBC was willing to listen. In 2003 I was the first geologist (and Scot!) to be invited to join the science team of the popular BBC2 programme, Rough Science, and around the same time my own geological research had featured in two BBC Horizon specials - Helike - The Real Atlantis and Earthquake Storms.

My main research interests are in the broad area of Earth hazards and natural disasters, particularly in terms of identifying major earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in the recent past, mainly the last 10,000 years. Most of my fieldwork has been carried out in the Mediterranean region, and much of my studies links in with those being done in geography, archaeology and ancient history.

Out of this mish-mash emerged the idea of a series based around the geology of the ancient Mediterranean world – a combination of rough travel, rough history and rough rocks. For me, the key element in it was to make it as lively and accessible as possible – a geology series for those who didn’t know they liked geology!

Filming the series was a fantastic experience. But in telly world you can’t give up the day job. So, on the academic front, I’ve moved again. I’ve headed south to warmer climes, taking up a Senior Lecturer post in the Department of Geology at the University of Plymouth. It’s that bit closer to the Med!