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Sir Patrick Geddes (October 2, 1854 - 1932) was a Scottishmarker biologist, known also for his innovative thinking in the fields of urban planning and education. He was responsible for introducing the concept of "region" to architecture and planning and is also known to have coined the term "conurbation" .


Patrick Geddes was born in Ballatermarker, Aberdeenshiremarker, Scotlandmarker. He studied at the Royal College of Mines in London under Thomas Henry Huxley between 1874 and 1878, and lectured in Zoology at Edinburgh University from 1880 to 1888. He held the Chair of Botany at University College Dundee from 1888 to 1919, and the Chair of Sociology at the University of Bombay from 1919 to 1924. He died in Montpelliermarker, Francemarker on April 17, 1932. He was knighted in 1932 shortly before his death.

Urban planning

Geddes shared the belief with Alejandro Reinosa that social processes and spatial form are related. Therefore, by changing the spatial form it was possible to change the social structure as well. This was particularly important in the late 19th and early 20th century when industrialization was dramatically altering the conditions of life.

Geddes demonstrated this theory through his work in Edinburghmarker's Old Town. Here, in this most dilapidated area, he used associations with prominent thinkers who lived there in the 18th and 19th century (like Adam Smith), to establish residential halls. The building in question is still part of the University of Edinburgh complex. Here he situated his famous Outlook Towermarker, a museum of local, regional, Scottish, and world history.

He collaborated with his son-in-law, architect Sir Frank Mears on projects in the Middle East. In 1919, Geddes was commissioned by the British Mandate to draw up a masterplan for Jerusalemmarker. In 1925, he submitted a master plan for Tel Avivmarker. Tel Aviv is the only known city whose core is entirely built according to Geddes' plan.

Geddes was the founder of the College Des Ecossais, an international teaching establishment located in Montpelliermarker, Francemarker. In India, Geddes provided planning consultancy to the rulers of Princely states. His principles for town planning in Bombay included: ("What town planning means under the Bombay Town Planning Act of 1915")
  • Preservation of human life and energy, rather than superficial beautification.
  • Conformity to an orderly development plan carried out in stages.
  • Purchasing land suitable for building.
  • Promoting trade and commerce.
  • Preserving historic buildings and buildings of religious significance.
  • Developing a city worthy of civic pride, not an imitation of European cities.
  • Promoting the happiness, health and comfort of all residents, rather than focusing on roads and parks available only to the rich.
  • Control over future growth with adequate provision for future requirements.

In Madras, Geddes worked with Lord Pentland, whom he knew from Edinburgh. Pentland invited Geddes to hold an exhibit on town planning in 1914. This was around the time of the meeting of the Indian National Congress and Pentland hoped the exhibit would demonstrate the benefits of British rule. The materials for the exhibit were sent to India on a ship that was sunk near Madras by the German ship Emden. New material was collected and exhibited at the Senate hall of Madras University in 1915. Geddes lectured and worked with Indian surveyors and traveled to Bombay and Bengal where Pentland's political allies Lords Willingdon and Carmichael were governors. He held a position in Sociology and Civics at Bombay University from 1919 to 1925.

Geddes was keenly interested in the science of ecology, an advocate of nature conservation and strongly opposed to pollution. Because of this, some historians have claimed he was a forerunner of modern Green politics.

Geddes' ideas had a worldwide circulation: his most famous admirer was the Americanmarker urban theorist Lewis Mumford. Geddes also influenced several British urban planners (notably Raymond Unwin), the Indian social scientist Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Catalan architect Cebrià de Montoliu (1873-1923) as well as many other 20th century thinkers.

Published works

  • City Development, A Report to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust (1904), Rutgers University Press
  • Cities in Evolution (1915) Williams & Norgate
  • The life and work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose (1920) Longmans London


  1. * CASA News: Patrick Geddes and the Digital Age
  2. An Empire in the Holy Land: Historical Geography of the British Administration in Palestine, 1917-1929 Gideon Biger, St. Martin's Press, New York & Magnes Press, Jerusalem, p. 216.
  3. Robert Home (1997) Of Planting and Planning: The making of British colonial cities E & FN Spon. ISBN 0-203-44961-4
  4. See Modern Environmentalism: An Introduction by David Pepper, Routledge, 1996, and Environmentalism: A Global History (pgs. 59-62) by Ramachandra Guha, Longman, 1999.
  5. For Geddes' influence on these thinkers,see Patrick Geddes: Social Evolutionist and City Planner by Helen Meller Routledge, 1993, and Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South by Guha and Juan Martínez Alier,Earthscan Publications, 1997


  • The Interpreter Geddes: The Man and His Gospel (1927) Amelia Defries,
  • Patrick Geddes: Maker of the Future (1944) Philip Boardman
  • Pioneer of Sociology: The Life and Letters of Patrick Geddes (1957) Philip Mairet
  • A Most Unsettling Person (1975) Paddy Kitchen
  • The Worlds of Patrick Geddes: Biologist, Town Planner, Re-educator, Peace-warrior (1978) Philip Boardman
  • Patrick Geddes: Social Evolutionist and City Planner (1990) Helen Meller
  • Biopolis, Patrick Geddes and the City of Life (2002) Volker M. Welter
  • L'Atlas de Tel-Aviv (2008) Catherine Weill-Rochant
  • 'Evaluer la pérennité urbaine : l’exemple du plan Geddes pour Tel-Aviv', Pérennité urbaine, ou la ville par-delà ses métamorphose, C. Vallat, A. Le Blanc, Pascale Philifert (coord.) Volume I : Traces, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2009, p. 315-325.

See also

External links

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