A ST IVES-educated scientist has achieved the most prestigious scientific accolade in the British Isles and Commonwealth – short of the coveted Nobel Prize itself.

A ST IVES-educated scientist has achieved the most prestigious scientific accolade in the British Isles and Commonwealth - short of the coveted Nobel Prize itself.

There are just 1,300 Fellows of the Royal Society around the world, and Richard Evershed, who celebrated his 54th birthday on Sunday, has just joined their elite number.

What is all the more remarkable - or perhaps shaming - is that when such an eminent scientist started at St Ivo School in the late 1960s, the system thought he was, if not a dunce, at least hardly the brightest pupil.

At the time, before the days of comprehensives, the Ivo was a secondary modern school - for pupils who failed the 11-plus examination. "That just proves how stupid the examination was," said his former biology teacher, Henry Berman, who still lives in the town.

Mr Berman ran the entomology (the study of insects) and natural history society at the school that fired the imagination of the young Richard Evershed, now Professor of Biogeochemistry at Bristol University.

His former teacher is immensely proud. "To be elected to the Royal Society is no mean thing," he told The Hunts Post.

Indeed it is not. Just 44 new Fellows are created each year for life from most of the English-speaking world outside the USA, together with a modest handful of foreign Fellows. That makes the club, which is celebrating its 350th anniversary, pretty exclusive.

"It is a great honour to have been elected to the world's oldest scientific society," said Professor Evershed.

His seriously complex environmental chemistry research involves climate change - even at the Ivo, he helped the research centre at Monk's Wood, which closed two years ago, with ecological research - and archaeological chemistry, which has changed our understanding of the way our ancestors lived in the past.

"If you find an ancient skeleton, say 5,000 years old, he can tell you what it did for a living," Mr Berman said of his former pupil.

Perhaps not quite. But Richard can tell you what he ate and how he lived, what he cooked and how he farmed. What shaped his life, how he survived when others did not, and how his Neolithic existence began to shape our lives in the 21st century.