Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies, 1977-2000

By Armstrong, Patrick H.; Martin, Geoffrey J. | The Geographical Review, April 2000 | Go to article overview

Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies, 1977-2000


Armstrong, Patrick H., Martin, Geoffrey J., The Geographical Review


Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies (London and New York: Mansell, an imprint of Continuum International Publishing Group) owes its origin to meetings of the Commission on the History of Geographical Thought of the International Geographical Union. The commission, appointed in New Delhi in 1968, met in Paris in 1969 and 1970 under the chairmanship of Philippe Pinchemel. An extended list of geographers then interested in the history of geography was drawn up. Many of these were invited to become corresponding members of the commission.

This activity in the history of geography had not been paralleled since the interest shown by the establishment of the "Joachim Lelewel Society" at the Fourteenth International Geographical Congress, held in Warsaw in 1934. The society was named after the Polish scientist Joachim Lelewel (1786-1861), who had a keen interest in the history of geography and of cartography. In fact, it was Boleslaw Olszewicz who presented a paper (published in summary form in Copmtes rendus du Congres International de Geographie, Varsovie [1935], p.135) proposing that Lucien Gallois assume the chairmanship of the group. The initiative ceased with the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The Commission on the History of Geographical Thought first proposed the biobibliographical inquiry in 1969. These studies were to be much more than the traditional obituary or memorial, and they were to be written whenever possible by someone with a special knowledge of the work of the deceased and who had access to archival deposits. It was agreed that the main body of the essay should proceed by way of three subheadings: "Education, Life and Work," "Scientific Ideas and Geographical Thought," and "Influence and Spread of Ideas." End matter was to include the subject's bibliography, writings about the subject, "archival holdings" of relevance, and "chronology," a chart of major events during the life under review. The section on "Education, Life, and Work" has usually been the most thoroughly accomplished; fewer pages are accorded the other two sections. This rather specific form, though perhaps confining, has made possible comparisons and linkages over many generations and across international boundaries (geographers from more than forty countries have been the subject of study). Not all countries have reached the same level of disciplinary evolution, and emphases have varied. Nevertheless, in the main, the quest of the geographer is a universal, and it can be so understood. Editors for this series were T. W. Freeman and Philippe Pinchemel, for volumes 1-4, and then Freeman, for volumes 5-12. Geoffrey J. Martin served as editor for volumes 13-16, and Martin and Patrick H. Armstrong functioned as coeditors for volumes 17-20.

A biobibliography is neither a biography nor a bibliography, but a meshing of the life of the individual with his or her scientific contribution (usually in the form of publications). It is brief (maximum length 9,000 words) but permits, indeed invites, further investigation of a larger undertaking. It mediates the confluence of science and philosophy, provides historical perspective, helps to eradicate insularity and provincialism, weakens the stranglehold of the present upon the mind, and attempts to reveal how things came to be: the accomplishment forms a partly unwritten chapter in the history of ideas.

The achievements of today are the cumulative results of unknown numbers of workers providing an unbroken chain of thought through time. No person in geographical science starts afresh; each builds knowingly or perhaps intuitively on the work of those who have gone before. For the most part, therefore, ideas are laid down in temporal sequence. One is inclined to the belief that the history of geography cannot readily be taught (except in a most fundamental way) but can be learned. The discipline, like an organism, is ever changing and ever growing.

The emphasis of the biobibliographical series is not on American geography or geographers. …

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