Peter Gould, DNB

Thanks to the work of UK geographer Ron Johnston, a number of geographers have been added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Sept. 2011 Supplement).

Of particular interest to me, since he touched my life in many ways, is Peter Gould, who died in 2000. Although he was a major figure in geography, and well known around the department where I got my PhD, you will find no formal record of his influence on my career (he wasn’t on my committee). However, I took many seminars and classes with Peter, although I didn’t know him well outside the classroom. His own students, such as Matt Hannah and Ulf Strohmeyer both gave remarkable eulogies at Gould’s memorial service. I don’t know what it might mean, but the only memorial services I’ve attended for geographers have been those of Brian Harley and Peter. And I only met Brian because of Peter Gould’s generosity in bringing him to Penn State.

My last communication from Gould is a nice letter he wrote in reply to an invitation I had made to him to travel to Virginia to give a guest lecture. He would do it, he said, if it were not for this cancer that had struck him that made travel difficult (he gave some details not suitable for the squeamish). It was an upbeat letter, full of generosity, and typical of his life-ful character. I’m glad to see him entering the lists. I hope that some part of him is continued in those whose lives he marked, as I know it is in mine.


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