Transforming Geography

Transforming Geography

Alan Werritty (University of Dundee) and David Unwin (Birkbeck London)

This year marks the centenary of the first edition of D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s book On Growth and Form. Thompson was a mathematically inclined biologist who spent the whole of his academic life in the University of St Andrews and what became the University of Dundee but who also served for a short while as President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (1942–46). So why should we mark the centenary of his major work? On Growth and Form was a major influence on the development of the spatial analysis tradition in geography during the 1960s and 1970s, most notably in the work of Haggett and Bunge and in inspiring Tobler to develop cartogram projections. Despite this early work, most subsequent quantitative geography has concentrated on the analysis of the attributes of places, treating their geometry as in some sense fixed. However, aided by advances in geocomputation and greater data availability, recent years have seen a re-discovery of the importance of a geometrical tradition in geography associated with ideas that date back to 1917 to do with the relationship between geometric form and process, similitude and rates of growth, and transformation/projection as an analytical device. This session will examine recent work in the Thompson tradition and along the way celebrate the centenary of a remarkable and stimulating book. See: Werritty, A. (2010) D’Arcy Thompson’s ‘On Growth and Form’ and the Rediscovery of Geometry within the Geographic Tradition, Scottish Geographical Journal, 126, 231-257.

The website for the Royal Geographical Society's History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group

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