- Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932)
Geddes was born in Ballater in Aberdeenshire but grew up in Perth. He started work in the National Bank of Scotland but three years later he went to study botany at Edinburgh University. He hated the formal study and left after a week, going instead to London. It was while he was there that he was influenced by the radical thinker, Thomas Huxley. Later, during a visit to France to recuperate from illness, he developed his life-long love of that country.
In 1880 he returned to work at Edinburgh University. His wide field of interests (biology, botany, town planning, social thinking, politics and literature) led him into a number of innovative urban renewal projects, including the creation of the first student hall of residence at the University. He advocated improvements to the environment on the basis that humans prospered where there was fresh air, gardens and good housing - things we take for granted today but which were revolutionary in his day.
His radicalism meant that he was not promoted to the Chair of Botany at the University but he obtained a position at University College, Dundee.
He obtained a building at the top of the Royal Mile>, near Edinburgh Castle>, which he converted into a "sociological observatory" - its famous camera obscura is still part of Outlook Tower there (see illustration). He reconstructed Ramsay Gardens> into the much admired masterpiece it is today and introduced good civic planning in Dublin. In frequent trips to India he created plans for 50 Indian cities in the period 1915 to 1929. He also travelled to the USA and Europe and influenced ideas there. He was knighted in 1931. He dreamt of a united Europe and despite the First World War, he advocated such a union until his death in 1932.
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