David J. M. Hooson

1926 - 2008

David J.M. Hooson, professor emeritus of geography at the University of California at Berkeley, died recently at the age of 82. Born in the Vale of Clwyd, North Wales, Hooson gained his undergraduate degree at Oxford and his doctorate at the London School of Economics. After four years as a lecturer at the University of Glasgow, he came to North America in 1956, first to the University of Maryland, then to the University of British Columbia, from which he moved to Berkeley in 1964.

Long-time dean of social sciences, chair of geography and of the Center for Slavic and East European Studies, Hooson taught at UC Berkeley for 37 years. He continued to mentor staff and students, led an American Geographical Society Mediterranean tour in the summer of 2007, and at his death was teaching at the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco. He chaired the IGU Commission on the History of Geographical Thought from 1980 to 1988 and the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science.

Hooson was a well-known authority on the former Soviet Union, notably its Central Asian republics, and his work influenced the development of geography within Russia itself. His books included A New Soviet Heartland? (1964) and The Soviet Union: People and Regions (1966). A prolific scholar, Hooson’s essays appeared in scores of books and periodicals within and beyond geography. His edited volume, Geography and National Identity (1994), has been called a path-breaking collection of global breadth. In his own essay, Hooson noted that the disintegration of the Soviet Union required redrawing “mental maps of this enormous slice of the earth’s surface” and rediscovering peoples whose regional attachments were “part of their life blood and their collective soul.” The reemergence of national identity the world over, he concluded, made the geographical dimension “fundamental, ultimately and increasingly inescapable, and to be ignored at our peril.” “The costs of geographical ignorance can be enormous,” he warned at a Berkeley commencement in 2001, “if also combined with arrogance, as many foreigners see the United States now.”

In addition to his contributions as teacher, mentor, administrator, and scholar, Hooson was known for his extraordinary personal warmth and generous spirit. He claimed his exuberant beard led some to see him as Darwin, others as Santa Claus. “If I can achieve such virtual fame simply by not shaving,” he told Berkeley geography graduate students, “think what you can do.”

David J.M. Hooson (Necrology). 2008. AAG Newsletter 43(7): 22.