James R. Anderson Lecture: “Why Things Are Where They Are”

James R. Anderson Lecture: “Why Things Are Where They Are”

Bob Honea (University of Kansas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8054-6.ch007
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Have you ever wondered why things are where they are? Most people probably don't think about this question much. Through life's experiences we learned that certain things can be expected to be where they are relative to other things. Schools are near residential neighborhoods. Doctor's offices are near hospitals. Unless something calls attention to it, you probably don't think about why something is where it is; you just know that's the case. This paper about how a geographer, practicing his craft, was able to solve real world problems. The street opinion is that geography is about place names; knowing where all the countries are; that's not the “geography” I know and not what I want to be known for doing. I am an applied geographer who likes to solve problems, which if solved, make a difference in society. This is a story about how my life was intertwined with Jim Anderson's life and experiences as an applied geographer as well as numerous other applied geographers, spanning the last 50 to 60 years.
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How A Mathematician Became A Geographer

This paper is not about outhouses; it’s about how a geographer does (or did) geography; how one geographer practicing his chosen discipline, was able to go about solving some real world problems doing geography. Geographers are those strange people who are curious about why and where things are located. Despite the average person on the street’s opinion that geography is about place names and knowing where all the countries are; that is not “geography,” and it is not what I want to be known for doing. Furthermore, I am an applied geographer. I like to solve “real world” problems; problems, which if solved, will make a difference.

Also, this is not a professional paper as much as a story; a story with a “thread” that ties my history as an applied geographer with the applied geography legacy that James R. Anderson left us as well as connections to other geographers and non-geographers influenced or was influenced by Jim (People with a connection to Jim Anderson or to me are identified in bold letters. Most were applied geographers.) This is also a story about how I became a geographer and about lessons I learned from applied geography projects I have worked on over the last 45 years. Before launching into history, however, I want to tell a little about Jim Anderson and how I came to know him. Unlike other professors, I could comfortably call him Jim when appropriate. This was not the case with my first geography professor at the University of Georgia, Dr. Merle C. Prunty. I learned painfully that it was always “Dr. Prunty” even though I was a “Doctor” too when I once called him “Merle” in a social situation. To explain my relationship with Jim Anderson I need to explain my relationship with Dr. Prunty.

First, it is necessary to provide a little personal background. I was lucky to be born in Athens, Georgia, literally next door to the University of Georgia. I was the son of an automotive radiator repair man and practically raised in an automotive garage. My father quit school in the 8th grade to become a “railroad engineer” but never made it because he suffered loss of part of his left leg hopping a speeding freight train as a brakeman. He was a remarkable strong man capable of lifting radiators, many weighing over a couple hundred pounds. I think he expected I would follow in his path.

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