Anne Buttimer#

Obituary, Academia Europaea


Emeritus Professor of Geography, University College Dublin since 2003, Anne Buttimer is Fellow of Royal Irish Academy, Royal Geographical Society (UK) and Academia Europaea . She served as Council Member of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) 1974-77, of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) 1996-99 and as President of the International Geographical Union (IGU) 2000-2004, first female and first Irish person to be elected to this role.

Graduate of University College Cork, she received her Ph.D. in geography at University of Washington (Seattle) in 1965 and since then has held research and teaching positions in Belgium, Canada, France, Scotland, Sweden, and USA. She has authored several books and articles on subjects ranging from social space and urban planning to the history of ideas and environmental policy. Some of her work has been published in translation to Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Latvian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Russian.

Her academic interests include the history and philosophy of science, urban and social geography, migration and identity, environmental experience, nature and culture, environment and sustainable development, human dimensions of global change.

She has received many awards and honours, including a post-doctoral fellowship from the Belgian American Educational Foundation 1965-1966; Fulbright-Hays Visiting Professor in Social Ecology to Sweden 1976; Association of American Geographers Honors Award 1986; Honours Award, Taiwan Geographical Society 1990; Ellen Churchill Semple Award, University of Kentucky 1991; Royal Geographical Society (UK) Murchison Award 1997; Royal Scottish Geographical Society Millenium Award 2000; Membre D'Honneur, Sociéte de Géographie 2001; Socio D'onore Societá Geografica, Italiana, 2006;Doctor, honoris causa , University of Joensuu, 1999; Doctor honoris causa , Tartu University 2004.

Research Interests

Anne Buttimer's research career has involved three main directions of enquiry: 1) history and philosophy of science, with special focus on geographical thought and practice; 2) empirical studies on the human experience of place, space and movement, and 3) interactions of science and policy.

1) Her PhD thesis (1965) explored conceptual and methodological foundations for social geography, a field then virtually ignored in American geography, but well developed in Europe, particularly in Swedish and French traditions. Post-doctoral training at University of Louvain (1965-66) in social philosophy - particularly in phenomenology and existentialism - and research visits to French experts provided fresh perspectives on science and humanities. Invited to Sweden to address issues of "knowledge integration" she directed an international dialogue project (1977-1988) which involved video-recorded interviews with senior and retired professionals with a view to discerning common denominators of career experiences and bases for mutual understanding and improved communication. Intellectual history, social construction of regional knowledges, humanism, values and the relationships between bio-physical and human sciences are enduring challenges.

2) Doctoral courses at University of Washington (1962-65) highlighted quantitative methods and their applications in studies of ethnic populations in Seattle. As member of a cross-disciplinary team charged with evaluating UK planning standards in Glasgow (1968-70), Anne Buttimer interviewed working class families that had been re-located from central city slums to newly-constructed high rise apartments in order to discover whether and how the presence or absence of "planning standards" made a difference for their everyday life experience, and also to identify other aspects of social space which were ignored in conventional practice. The analytical framework developed in this study became a favoured model for doctoral theses at Clark University where studies of environmental perception and mental maps were in vogue during the 1970s. Subsequent work on "time-geography" at Lund University in Sweden led to a more comprehensive framework involving both temporal and spatial aspects of everyday life. This has been applied in studies of migration and identity, creativity and context, nature and culture, quality of urban life and in comparative studies on sustainable development.

3) The interactions between scientific research and planning policy were central to the research conducted in Sweden over a decade, followed by work on Human Dimensions of Global Change specifically in the context of a Swedish-Canadian joint enquiry into the human uses of woodland (1988-1991). Subsequently Anne Buttimer directed an EU-funded research network on sustainable development with partner teams in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden (1993-1995). This yielded important insight into issues of scale and appropriateness in the implementation of EU policies, and the significance of language and political culture in promoting better communication between scientists and planners, and between academic scholars and the general public. These ideas have been valuable in work with the International Council for Science (ICSU) which promotes Science in the Service of Society. As IGU President (2000-2004) Anne Buttimer promoted collaboration among the "Geo-Unions" especially in the context of the United Nations "Year of Planet Earth" on which she serve as Member of the International Board of Management.

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