Tim Flannery

Honorary Doctor of Science

Citation delivered by Professor Paul Wellings CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Timothy Fridtjof Flannery as a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on 13 December 2017.


Chancellor, I present Tim Flannery.

A household name in the field of environmental conservation for more than two decades, Professor Tim Flannery is one of the preeminent scientists of the twenty-first century. The vast and lasting impact of Professor Flannery’s contributions to science and culture as palaeontologist, biologist, conservationist, historian, advocate and author is such that Sir David Attenborough places him “in the league of the all-time great explorers like Dr David Livingstone”. This is particularly apt, as Professor Flannery, in the footsteps of Livingstone, has captured the public imagination on a large scale. He has been a significant driver of public engagement with academic science in his role as a science communicator and popular author, sharing with the public what he calls discoveries in the ‘fourth dimensional space’ – where fossils and remnants of our ancient past prompt us, collectively, to think about our planetary future.

For someone who avowedly did not enjoy his early schooling, Professor Flannery has managed a tremendously successful academic career. In 1977 he graduated from La Trobe University with BA in English Literature but changed tack with a Master of Science from Monash University in 1981 to pursue his interest in earth sciences. In 1984, Tim graduated with a PhD in palaeontology from the University of New South Wales, exploring the evolution of greater kangaroo species in Australia. To date, Professor Flannery has authored 32 books and penned over 140 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has named 25 living and 50 fossil mammal species – and his contributions in the discovery and classification of these species resulted in a curious early posterity, as in 2005 a species of bat, Pteralopex Flanneryi, was named in his honour.

In 2007, Professor Flannery was awarded Australian of the Year, appointed as inaugural Professor of Climate Risk at Macquarie University, and founded and chaired the Copenhagen Climate Council. In 2011, he was appointed to the role of Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission. In this role and since, Tim has been a seasoned campaigner in the global climate change debate, which has drawn both support and controversy from around the world. Following the disbandment of the Climate Commission by the Australian Government in 2013, he and other commissioners launched a new, independent body called the Climate Council, with the aim of continuing scientific enquiry into climate data. The Climate Council raised an unprecedented $1 million in crowdfunding, due in large part to the public profile of Professor Tim Flannery.

During his career, Professor Flannery has held prominent positions at various institutions including Harvard University, the University of Adelaide, the South Australian Museum and the Australian Museum. He is currently a Professor at Melbourne University Sustainability Institute, a member of the World Future Council, serves on the Sustainability Advisory Board of Tata Power (India), and is scientific advisor to Magaldi Solar (Italy) and the Fondation Segré (Switzerland).

In all his areas of endeavour, Tim combines his insatiable curiosity about the world with his flair for research and his verve with language to make science relevant and interesting to the general public as well as the scores of budding scientists who will follow him.

Chancellor, for his outstanding scholarship as an author and academic, and for his exceptional contributions to environmental science, it is a privilege and pleasure to present Tim Flannery for a Doctor of Science, honoris causa.