Professor Emeritus Dr. Yi-Fu Tuan


People think that geography is about capitals, land forms, and so on.
But it is also about place — its emotional tone, social meaning, and generative potential.

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Dr. Yi-Fu Tuan was born on December 5th, 1930 in Tientsin, China. In 1951 he followed his father who was a diplomat to the United States to live. Before his family Yi-Fu was educated in China, The Philippines, and Australia. In 1951, Yi-Fu received a bachelor degree from Oxford University and then pursued a master degree, which he obtained in 1955. Receiving a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkley in 1957, he went on to teach as an instructor of Geography at Indiana University at Bloomington, University of Chicago in 1958, and then moved to the University of New Mexico in 1959. Known as the Father of Humanist Geography fraternity, Yi-Fu Tuan taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1983 until his retirement in 1998 and remains an emphatic presence on campus. Through his books, essays, letters to colleagues, and innumerable conversations with students, Tuan has profoundly influenced the way scholars think about the relationship between people and their environments. Yi-Fu is among the most decorated geographers of all time and regarded as a Saint-Exupery ‘Little Prince’ of Geography.

A Fellow of both the American Academy and British Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in 2012 he received the Vautrin Lud International Geography Prize, the highest award given in the field of geography and modelled after the Nobel Prize. For many years he taught at the University of Minnesota, and, from 1984 until his retirement in 1998, he held two endowed chairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, serving as the John K. Wright Professor of Geography and the Vilas Research Professor of Geography. Yi-Fu has written twenty-two acclaimed and influential books since 1968. Yi-Fu received the Award for Meritorious Contribution to the Association of American Geographers, Bracken Award in Landscape Architecture, Bush Sabbatical Fellow, Cullum Geographical Medal of the American Geographical Society, Laureat d’Honneur of the International Geographical Union, Phi Beta Kappa/Frank M. Updike Memorial Scholar, Rowman and Littlefield Author Laureate, and Stanley Brunn Award in Creativity from the Association of American Geographers.