Alan Voorhees

1922 - 2005

Alan Manners Voorhees died in December 2005 at age eighty-three. He was a scientist, educator, businessman, and philanthropist, and also a strong advocate for geography, having made significant intellectual and applied contributions to the field. Voorhees developed a mathematical model that could predict the ebb and flow of highway traffic. His model helped make feasible the design and construction of the Interstate system and greatly influenced urban planning in the last half of the twentieth century. He was also instrumental in re-designs of the downtowns of many cities, and major mass transit systems in Washington, DC; São Paulo, Brazil; Caracas, Venezuela; and Hong Kong.

Voorhees was dedicated to expanding opportunities for geographers to influence society. For the last thirty-five years of his life, he was involved in geography through research, teaching, and planning, and as the successful owner and president of several geographically-oriented companies including Alan M. Voorhees & Associates and Autometric, Inc. Voorhees founded these companies following almost ten years at the Automobile Safety Foundation. He entered academia in 1977 and served as the Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Urban Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle until 1979.

As an important donor and advisor to the Library of Congress, he led the effort to build a corporate support group for the Geography and Map Division that resulted in the largest freely accessible collection of scanned historical maps on the Internet. The Association of American Geographers also benefited from Mr. Voorhees’s generosity and his interest in using geography to improve the effectiveness of government. In 2003, he made a significant contribution that allowed the organization to hire its first Director of Public Policy, and took an active role in the effort to create a Geographer to Congress.

Alan Voorhees was born December 17, 1922. He earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1947, a master’s in city planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949, and a certificate from the Yale University Bureau of Highway Traffic in 1952. He received the AAG Presidential Award in 2005. He was amember of National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and received an Honorary Doctorate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Alan Voorhees (Necrology). 2006. AAG Newsletter 41(2): 37.