James Kennedy

Emeritus Fellow

BSc PhD London, MA DSc Oxford, FGS, FLS


Jim Kennedy gained his bachelor’s degree in 1964, and his doctorate in 1968, at King’s College, London.  He was appointed to a Demonstratorship in the Department of Geology and Mineralogy in Oxford in 1967, and to a Lectureship in l968.  He joined Wolfson College as a Governing Body Fellow in 1970, serving variously as Vicegerent and Acting President.  In 1976 he took over the Curatorship of the Geological Collections in the University Museum, and was awarded the title of Professor of Earth Sciences in 1996, and of Professor of Natural History in 2003, on his election to the Directorship of the University Museum of Natural History.  He was awarded the Prestwich Medal of the Geological Society in 1990 for his work in North Sea hydrocarbon exploration, the Neville George Medal of the Geological Society of Glasgow in 1992 for his researches in Cretaceous geology and palaeontology, the Gold medal for Zoology of the Linnean Society in 2002, in recognition of his taxonomic research, and the inaugural Gold medal of the Palaeontographical Society in 2014, for his contributions to the description of british fossil faunas.

He also has the dubious distinction of an Oxford Half Blue in Water Polo and Full Blue in Swimming, in spite of never having been a student at Oxford (they changed the rules of Blues matches the following year).

He is the author/co-author of around 400 articles and monographs.  His research has been primarily focussed on the history of the Cretaceous period (65-142 Ma ago):  a greenhouse world without ice-caps, sea level at times a hundred metres and more higher than at present, with extensive continental flooding, and the accumulation of what are now deep sea sediments — chalks – on continental areas.  It was terminated by one of the great mass-extinction events in earth history.  Areas of research have included chalk sedimentation and diagenesis (notably as applied to the hydrocarbon industry, the North Sea Chalk Oilfields), alpha taxonomy of Cretaceous ammonites (with collaborators in more than 20 countries), and monographic revisions of faunas from the United States, Europe, North and South Africa.  This has underpinned biostratigraphic studies, notably on the Middle and Upper Cretaceous, the establishment of standard biostratigrapic schemes, and proposals for global standard stratotype sections and points for several Cretaceous stages.  Further projects have involved collaborative research on the integration of ammonite, nannofossil, planktonic foram, palynomorph, O and C isotope and trace element stratigraphy, and the development of an Sr isotope curve for the Upper Cretaceous.  Taxonomy is also the basis for publications on ammonite evolution and biogeography.  Other studies have been on ammonite palaeobiology and (at an early stage) molluscan biomineralisation.