Bowman, Isaiah, 1878-1950

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1878-12-26
Death 1950-01-06
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Bowman became President of the Johns Hopkins University in 1935 and retired in 1948. During World War II Bowman served on the Policy Committee of the State Department and as Special Advisor to the Secretary of State. After retirement from JHU, he served as Chairman of the Economic Cooperation Administration's Committee on Overseas Territories.

Isaiah Bowman (1878-1950) was a political geographer, advisor to the U.S. State Dept. and president of the Johns Hopkins University.

From the description of Isaiah Bowman papers, 1904-1951. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 48395807

Isaiah Bowman was born on 26 December 1878 at Waterloo, Ontario, in Canada. He was educated at Harvard and Yale universities. Between 1905 and 1915, he taught geography at Yale, leading the first Yale South American expedition in 1907 and serving as geologist and geographer on the Yale Peruvian Expedition in 1911. In 1913, he led the American Geographical Society Expedition to the Central Andes and between 1915 and 1935 served as director of the American Geographical Society. He acted as chief territorial adviser to President Wilson at the Versailles conference and during the Second World War was appointed territorial adviser to the Secretary of State.

Between 1919 and 1929, Bowman was a member of the executive committee of the National Research Council, serving as its chairman from 1933 to 1935. In 1935, he was appointed president of Johns Hopkins University, where he remained until his retirement in 1948. Bowman served as a member of many geographical and scientific societies and was president of the International Geographical Union between 1931 and 1934, and vice-president of the National Academy of Sciences between 1940 and 1945. He died on 6 January 1950.

From the guide to the Isaiah Bowman collection, 1929-1939, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)

Oliver Edwin Baker (1883-1949) was an agricultural geographer and population expert and an analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was an authority on agricultural land utilization and advocate of “rurban” living, a combination of urban employment, suburban living, and part-time farming.

Baker was born in 1883 in Tifflin, Ohio, to Edwin Baker, a merchant, and his wife Martha Ranney Thomas. As a boy Baker was taught by his mother, a former school teacher, and then in public school. He graduated at age nineteen from Heidelberg College in Tifflin with a major in history and mathematics. The following year he received his master’s degree in philosophy and sociology from Heidelberg. He then enrolled at Columbia University, where he was granted a master’s in political science. He subsequently studied forestry at Yale (1907-1908) and agriculture at the University of Wisconsin (1908-1912). During his time at Wisconsin he co-authored an essay on the climate of Wisconsin and its effects on agriculture, and he spent his summers with the Wisconsin Soil Survey. In 1912 Baker joined the United States Department of Agriculture. Five years later he co-authored the Geography of the World’s Agriculture . The positive reception of this volume motivated Baker to produce an Atlas of American Agriculture, which was published in six parts between 1918 and 1936. Baker subsequently returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics in 1921 with a dissertation on land utilization. His research interests in the economics of agriculture stemmed in part from the influence of two of his professors at Wisconsin, Henry C. Taylor (1873-1969) and Richard T. Ely (1854-1943).

In 1922 Baker accepted Taylor’s invitation to join the Department of Agriculture’s new Bureau of Agricultural Economics. There he undertook a number of research projects, including many that involved the delineating and mapping of agricultural regions. His “Agricultural Regions of North America” was published in several parts between 1926 and 1933 in Economic Geography, for which he also served as associate editor for several years. He evidently often amazed his students by citing statistics on any of the 300 counties in the United States. Among his other publications during this period was an essay on agriculture in China that appeared in Foreign Affairs (1928). Baker was vice president of the Association of American Geographers in 1824 and president in 1932. During this period he was involved in the Association’s long-term program to investigate the “the margin of the cultivable earth,” so-called pioneer belts. In the late 1920s he also belonged to a National Research Council’s committee charged with the study of pioneer belts. From 1923 to 1927 Baker taught part-time in the newly established geography department at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

By the 1930s Baker became increasingly interested in questions related to population studies, including rural-urban migration, population quality, and living conditions on farms. Baker’s research in population problems stemmed from his interest in what he saw as the most valuable farm product, outstanding citizens. He encouraged and participated in several surveys of rural youth, and, based on his recognition that many rural people live in unsatisfactory conditions, he devoted much energy to improving their circumstances. For example, he attempted to the future of farming by studying past agricultural trends, offered specific suggestions designed to improve farming practices, and he tried to increase popular awareness of the contributions of farm families to the nation’s welfare. He essentially saw the nation as a complex of agricultural regions, and while some geographers regarded his agrarianism as reactionary, others recognized his contributions especially in the mapping of these regions. In 1937 the University of Göttingen awarded him an honorary degree.

Baker was deeply concerned about the declining U.S. birthrate, especially among urban people, which he predicted would have devastating consequences for the entire nation. He was a strong advocate of a “rurban” lifestyle that would combine urban employment with suburban living and part-time farming. This, he believed, would help preserve the rural values he so admired, including the “family ideal,” “the worth of the human soul, patriotism, the dignity of labor, the necessity of sacrifice, and the widespread distribution in the ownership of property,” as he explained in his essay “Some Implications of Population Trends to the Christian Church” (1942). Baker also believed that a “rurban” society would help improve land-use practices and increase the birthrate. He called for farm ownership over many generations, with one dwelling reserved for the older couple and one for the younger. Baker and his wife Alice Hargrave Crew, whom he married in 1925, practiced what he preached. The couple raised four children on a suburban property where they grew a garden and raised cows and chickens. Baker eventually bought a farm in Virginia with the intention of leaving it to his son.

In 1942 Baker joined the faculty of the University of Maryland. At that time, the university offered no courses in geography. Over the next seven years, Baker established what became one of the foremost geography departments in the country. He retired as chairman in 1949 in order to focus on his research, especially in connection to the Atlas of World Resources and the China Atlas . He died later that year in his home in College Park, Maryland.

From the guide to the Oliver Edwin Baker papers, 1913-1949, 1913-1949, (American Philosophical Society)

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Subjects:

  • World politics
  • Agriculture--Atlases
  • Eastern question
  • Economic geography
  • Reconstruction (1939-1951)
  • Boundaries
  • World War, 1939-1945--Territorial questions
  • World War, 1914-1918--Territorial questions
  • Agriculture--Research
  • Muslims--Maps
  • Geography--United States--Societies, etc

Occupations:

  • Geographers

Places:

  • Middle East (as recorded)
  • Islamic countries (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)