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The Local Shape of Revolution: Reflections on Quantitative Geography at Cambridge in the 1950s and 1960s

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The “quantitative revolution” in human geography which swept across so many universities in the 1950s and 1960s had its main diffusion centers in a few locations which were to have global significance. Two critical early centers were the University of Washington in the Pacific Northwest and Lund University in southern Sweden. But the experience of change was different in different locations as the general forces of perturbation sweeping around academia were translated into local eddies with local repercussions. Here, small and somewhat random quirks at the outset, led eventually to fundamental divergences between adoption and rejection. The theme is illustrated by reference to changes which occurred at Cambridge, one of England's two oldest universities, as seen from the perspective of someone who—as undergraduate, graduate student, and later, faculty member—was caught up in these changes and took some small part in propagating them. Special attention is given to the role of two environmental scientists, Vaughan Lewis and Richard Chorley, in introducing changes and the way in which later developments in human geography drew on preceding experiences in physical geography. The reasons behind the “Cambridge variant” and the questions of how intellectual DNA is passed across the generations are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Geography, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, U.K.

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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