Sir Patrick Geddes

1854 - 1932

Sir Patrick Geddes
©2024 Gazetteer for Scotland

Sir Patrick Geddes

Regarded as the father of town planning. Born in Ballater (Aberdeenshire), Geddes was brought up on the outskirts of Perth. Living in Edinburgh, he did much of his pioneering work in the Old Town, then a desperately poor area of the city. Moving to James Court following his marriage, his profound social conscience led him to improve what were, at the time, the worst slums in Europe. He established the Environment Society in 1884 (which later became the Edinburgh Social Union) to bring about communal action amongst local residents to improve their social conditions and environment. His work included Ramsay Garden (1892-3), Blackie House (1894) and later, with his daughter Nora Geddes and her husband, another notable Scottish architect, Sir Frank Mears (1880 - 1953), the Scottish National Zoological Park (or Edinburgh Zoo, 1913). He went on to plan buildings and cities in many countries including working with Mears in India and Palestine and laying out master-plans for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Geddes applied a sociological understanding to town planning, was arguably the first environmentalist, developed the principles which underlie 'new urbanism', came up with the 'constellation theory' of settlements, and coined the terms 'conurbation' for a city-region and 'megalopolis' for a group of adjacent cities in his book Cities in Evolution (1915).

Geddes also excelled in Botany and became Professor of Botany in Dundee. He spent the last eight years of his life in France, where he founded the College Des Ecossais in Montpelier in 1924. He was knighted in 1932, shortly before his death.

His son, Alasdair was killed on the Western Front in 1917 but Geddes kept the news from his wife Anna who was dying of typhoid, caught while the couple were in India. Another son, Arthur Geddes (1895 - 1968), was a noted geographer at the University of Edinburgh.

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