David Lowenthal

1923 - 2018

David Lowenthal died peacefully at his home in London on September 15, 2018. A giant in the fields of geography, history, and heritage studies, Lowenthal is perhaps best known for his 1985 work The Past is a Foreign Country. In 2015, the updated edition of this text, The Past is a Foreign Country – Revisited received widespread praise, including a British Academy Medal. At the San Francisco AAG Annual Meeting in 2016, Lowenthal took part in an author meets critics session on this work (pictured at right).


Born in New York City in 1923, Lowenthal received an undergraduate degree in history from Harvard University in 1944. After being deployed as a geographer during World War II, he went on to obtain an M.A. in geography under Carl Sauer at University of California, Berkeley. Sauer recommended he continue his education at University of Wisconsin, Madison, where Lowenthal completed a Ph.D. in History with a dissertation on the life of George Perkins Marsh, the subject of his first book George Perkins Marsh: versatile Vermonter (1958). Following several appointments throughout the US and Caribbean, Lowenthal became a professor of geography at University College, London in 1972 where he remained until becoming emeritus professor in 1985.


Among his works, notable ones also include The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1996) and a revised edition of his work on Marsh, George Perkins Marsh: Prophet of Conservation (2000). He was working on a final work entitled Quest for the Unity of Knowledge. Lowenthal is a medalist of the Royal Geographical, the Royal Scottish Geographical, and the American Geographical Societies; a Fellow of the British Academy; and honorary D. Litt. Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 2010 he was awarded the Forbes Lecture Prize by the International Institute for Conservation.

Remembrances have been written about him published in The GuardianThe Cambridge Heritage Research CenterThe Geographical Society of Ireland, and University College, London.