Daniel W. Gade

1937 - 2015

Daniel Gade

Dan Gade, emeritus professor at the University of Vermont, and a geographer with diverse interests who pursued fieldwork on four continents over four decades, passed away on June 15, 2015, aged 78.

Daniel Wynne Gade was born in Niagara Falls, NY, on September 28, 1936. He completed his bachelor’s degree at Valparaiso University, IN, in 1959, immediately followed by an MA at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (1960), then an MS (1961) and PhD (1967) both at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His doctoral research examined ecological relationships in peasant societies, and a grant from the National Academy of Sciences–National Research Council underwrote his fieldwork in southern Peru. His thesis was entitled “Plant use and folk agriculture in the Vilcanota Valley of Peru: a cultural-historical geography of plant resources” and he began to emerge as a leading proponent of the so-called Berkeley school of geographical thought.

Gade was appointed by the University of Vermont (UVM) in 1966, one of four dedicated young geographers tasked with establishing a new geography department to offer courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. He remained at UWM for his whole career enjoying a succession of promotions in the geography department and a ten-year stint as Chair of the Latin American Studies Program (1977-87).

Over the years, the courses he taught were primarily in the fields of cultural geography, cultural ecology (with the anthropology department), and the geography of Latin America. For more than a decade, he also taught an elective course, always heavily subscribed, on the geography of wine.

In broadest terms, Gade’s scholarship examined the many kinds of connections that tie humans, in their cultural and temporal settings, to the earth and its resources. This took him into various academic subfields including cultural-historical geography, environmental history, ethnobiology, cultural ecology, and biogeography.

Gade’s wide-ranging research interests were underpinned by fieldwork. In fact, he was an enthusiastic field geographer energized by distant, exotic lands and cultures. He undertook research projects in various countries of Latin America, France, Italy, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Spain, Portugal and Quebec. He received support from the Social Science Research Council for further work in Peru in 1970, and from the National Geographic Society in 1977 for a project in the western Amazon. He received a Fulbright Research Award for work in Madagascar in 1983; a research grant in 1989-90 from the Comite Conjunto of the Government of Spain to do research in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville; and another Fulbright Award to visit Brazil and Argentina in 1993.

This varied field research resulted in publications on topics as diverse as: the verticality of Peruvian Indian agriculture, the concept of nature and culture, cultural history of coca leaf, manioc ecology, lightning and religion, Madagascar’s deforestation problem, the shaman as an archetype, appellation controlee of a French wine, ethnobotany and Nazi ideology, hyena predation in Ethiopia, and synanthropy of the American crow.

Gade authored five books, around 150 articles and book chapters in five languages in a wide variety of anthropological, geographical and interdisciplinary publications, and more than 50 book reviews. His publications were of consistently high quality, and often cited. For years, he was the U.S. correspondent for the Bibliographie Geographique Internationale and an editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies prepared at the Library of Congress in Washington.

During his final year before retirement, the UVM Graduate College designated Gade a University Scholar in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Although he retired in 1999 and became professor emeritus, he continued with his academic work, starting with a residential fellowship at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France in 2000.

Retirement saw a continuation of his prodigious publications output, with dozens of papers and book reviews, and, of particular note, three major books. Madagascar: Madagasikara (McDonald and Woodward, 1996) was a primer giving an overview of the physical geography and climate, culture and traditions, society and economy of the island nation. Nature and Culture in the Andes (University of Wisconsin Press, 1999) was a suite of graceful, sweeping essays on the relations between landscape and people in the Andean countries of South America. This a masterful work pulled together disparate themes and materials, and weaving scientific analysis with personal reflections. More recently, Curiosity, Inquiry, and the Geographical Imagination (Peter Lang, 2011) was also a wonderful piece of academic writing about intellectual curiosity as the driving force in scholarly endeavor. In typical Gade style, it combined the empirical with the philosophical and reflexive, and straddled the borders between geography, history, anthropology, and other disciplines. Six weeks before his death, Gade submitted another manuscript to publishers in New York: Spell of the Urubamba, a series of essays combining geography, history and anthropology.

Gade was a member of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers who gave him the Eminent Latin Americanist Career Award in 1993. He was also a member of Association of American Geographers and received the Robert Netting Award in 2011 in recognition of distinguished scholarship linking geography and anthropology. In addition, he was a member of the American Geographical Society, the International Mountain Society, and the Society of Ethnobiology.

Gade had an unusually diverse intellectual curiosity about the world and his work manifested an unwavering love of fieldwork. Over the decades he inspired thousands of students and was widely respected by his peers who have described him as “one of the most traveled and cosmopolitan scholars in cultural and historical geography” (Stanley D. Brunn, University of Kentucky) and “a master cultural geographer” (Kent Mathewson, Louisiana State University).

Dan is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years, Mary Scott Killgore Gade, their son, Christopher Pierre Gade, and his granddaughter, Skyler Scott Gade. His wish was for some of his ashes be buried on Camel’s Hump in Vermont and the rest on an Inca terrace in the Urubamba Valley in Peru.