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Leading sociology scholars to discuss legacy of Patrick Geddes

14 June 2013

Leading scholars will gather at Abertay University on Saturday (June 15) to discuss the contribution that the scientist, environmentalist and social reformer Patrick Geddes made to the relatively new science of Sociology.

Best known as the ‘father of town planning’, Geddes’ impact on the formation of sociology as a discipline is not widely known.

However, in the first thirty years of the twentieth century he and his followers were at the forefront of developments in the subject in Dundee, Edinburgh, Bombay and Montpellier.

Born in 1854 and brought up near Perth, Geddes was deeply involved in the slum clearances in Edinburgh, and witnessed first hand the social consequences – such as crime, illness and poverty – that were the result of massive social upheaval.

He argued that social life was greatly influenced by geographical location, and believed that the practical action of people in transforming their local environment would improve social conditions and enhance the cultural well-being of communities.

After lecturing in Zoology at Edinburgh University, and in Botany at University College, Dundee (now Dundee University), Geddes left for India in 1919, where he founded the country’s first sociology course at Bombay University.

Saturday’s event - entitled "Revaluing the Sociology of Patrick Geddes – A Symposium" - will bring together leading scholars engaged in original studies of Geddes work, to discuss the impact of his pioneering theories, why his contribution to sociology has largely been dismissed or overlooked by contemporary sociologists, and to evaluate the ongoing significance of his work.

Speakers at the symposium will include:

  • Professor John Scott – Professor of Sociology, Plymouth University
  • Professor Ray Bromley – Professor of Geography and Planning, University at Albany, State University of New York
  • Professor Murdo Macdonald – Professor of History of Scottish Art, University of Dundee
  • Professor Alex Law – Professor of Sociology, Abertay University

Speaking ahead of the event Professor Alex Law, who will be hosting the symposium, said:

“Patrick Geddes was one of the pioneers of Sociology – the science of society – but is better known for his work on town planning and, especially in Dundee, for having held the Chair of Botany at what was then University College. Just over a century ago, Geddes's study of Dunfermline inspired the development of urban sociology internationally from Chicago to the Middle East.

“While not all of his ideas have stood the test of time, current scholarship on the sociology of Geddes and his circle is much less dismissive of his legacy, especially since many of the problems with which he engaged - economic narrowness, class distinctions, urban squalor, wasteful consumption and technological inefficiency - are still with us."

The symposium will be followed by a book launch for John Scott and Ray Bromley's pioneering study “Envisioning Sociology: Victor Branford, Patrick Geddes and the Quest for Social Reconstruction” (SUNY Press, 2013).

John Scott is Professor of Sociology at Plymouth University. His many books include “Sociological Theory: Contemporary Debates”; “Conceptualising the Social World: Principles of Sociological Analysis”; and “Sociology” (coauthored with James Fulcher).

Ray Bromley is Professor of Geography and Planning at the University at Albany, State University of New York. His books include “Planning for Small Enterprises in Third World Cities”.

This book launch is open to the public and will begin at 2pm in the university’s Kydd Building on Bell Street, in Room 2521.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 E:

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