Anne Buttimer

1938 - 2017

Anne Buttimer, emeritus professor of geography at University College Dublin, died July 15, 2017.

Buttimer was Fellow of Royal Irish Academy, Royal Geographical Society (UK) and Academia Europaea. She served as Council Member of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) from 1974 to 1977; of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) from 1996 to 1999; and as President of the International Geographical Union (IGU) from 2000 to 2004, the first female and first Irish person to be elected to that role.

During her distinguished career, she held research and teaching positions in Belgium, Canada, France, Scotland, Sweden, and the USA. She was appointed Professor of Geography at University College Dublin (UCD) in 1991, where she remained until she retired in 2003. However, she continued to work relentlessly, attending overseas meetings, giving invited lectures and engaging in debates on the promotion of social science, European cooperation and the world of geographical knowledge production and its circulation.

She has received many awards and honours, including a post-doctoral fellowship from the Belgian American Educational Foundation 1965 1966; Fulbright Hays Visiting Professor in Social Ecology to Sweden 1976; Association of American Geographers Honors Award 1986; Ellen Churchill Semple Award, University of Kentucky 1991; Royal Geographical Society (UK) Murchison Award 1997; Royal Scottish Geographical Society Millenium Award 2000; Member of the Jury for the Prix Vautrin-Lud 1998-2012; Appointed to Board of Science for the Austrian Academy of Sciences 2010; Doctor, honoris causa, University of Joensuu, 1999; Doctor honoris causa, Tartu University 2004; August Wahlberg Medal in Gold from King of Sweden 2009; appointed Chair of the Social Sciences Section of Academia Europaea 2010; elected as Vice-President of Academia Europaea 2012; Doctor honoris causa, University of Grenoble 2012.

Anne’s colleagues Alun Jones and Stephen Mennell write:

She was a powerful advocate of the discipline. She was truly international in her work, vision and activities; a gifted multilingual scholar with a sharp intellect. Her scholarship on place, space and the spirituality of everyday human existence was truly groundbreaking.  One paper that had exceptional impact was “Grasping the dynamism of lifeworld”, which appeared in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers in 1976, and has been cited well over 700 times. It drew upon the social phenomenology that was then widely influential in the other social sciences, and applied it to the culturally defined spatiotemporal setting or horizon of everyday life. In her work she promoted the emancipatory role of humanism, and championed calls for Western scholars to seek better communication with colleagues from other cultures to address global environmental challenges. Anne’s work received deservedly numerous international awards and honours. Most recently these included: the Wahlberg Medal of  the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography in 2009; the Lifetime Achievement honour from the Association of American Geographers, presented to her at the Annual Conference of the AAG in Tampa in 2014; and the Vautrin Lud prize (often referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize’ in Geography) in 2014.

Buttimer conducted her undergraduate studies at University College Cork in geography, Latin, and mathematics. She earned a master’s degree in geography from the National University of Ireland. After earning her master’s degree in 1959, she became a Dominican nun in Seattle, serving in the order for 17 years. In 1965, she earned a doctorate from the University of Washington.

Anne was deeply committed to her family, friends, and colleagues and she will be greatly missed.