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About this book

This is the first volume in a new series on 'Great Minds in Regional Science,' which seeks to present a contemporary view on the scientific relevance of the work done by great thinkers in regional science. It presents, among others, Walter Isard, Martin Beckmann and Gunnar Myrdal. Each contribution combines factual biographical information, a description of their major contributions, and a discussion of the broader context of the work, as well as an assessment of its current relevance, scientific recognition and policy impact. The book attempts to fill a gap in our knowledge, and to respond to the growing interest in the formation and development of the field of regional science and its key influential figures.

Table of Contents



The year 2016, which saw the establishment of the Regional Science Academy, was an important growth point for the regional science movement. Since early 2016, a highly successful series of Academy sessions has been held at locations throughout the world, focusing on The Voice of Regional Science (general and strategic reflections on new topics in regional science) and Great Minds in Regional Science (in each case a contemporaneous view on the scientific relevance of a great thinker in regional science, rather than an in memoriam piece). Both sets of mini-lectures have been amplified into chapters that are being published as two sub-series, together forming a book series entitled Footprints in Regional Science.
Peter Batey, David Plane

Establishing Regional Science and the Regional Science Association


Walter Isard (1919–2010): Founding Father of Regional Science

Regional science owes its existence to the efforts of one individual: American economist Walter Isard. Highly critical of economists for failing to handle space, Isard’s solution was a new, interdisciplinary field, drawing from other social sciences and emphasizing rigorous analysis of cities and regions. He was remarkably successful in promoting regional science and was its most prolific author. Isard established the Regional Science Association (RSA), initiated several journals, and founded the first regional science department, at the University of Pennsylvania. Extremely ambitious in his scholarship, he combined academic prowess with rare talent for organization. In this chapter, David Boyce reviews the contributions of the Founding Father in launching the academic field, establishing its institutions, and diffusing its scholarship through forming sections of the RSA, worldwide.
David Boyce

Genpachiro Konno (1906–1996), Yasuhiko Oishi (1922–2014), and Hirotada Kohno (1932–): The Three Great Fathers of Japanese Regional Science

In this first of two chapters dealing with the international growth of regional science, Yoshiro Higano assesses the contributions of Genpachiro Konno, Yasuhiko Oishi, and Hirotada Kohno to leading the development of regional science in Japan. These Great Minds each served decade-long terms as Presidents of the Japan Section of the Regional Science Association (RSA), followed by terms as Presidents of the RSA, or its successor, the Regional Science Association International. Highly principled, strong scholars, they advocated for public policy based on scientific study. Committed to large national projects, including express highways, they realized the value of regional science and interpreted it to fit the exigencies of their times. Together, Konno, Oishi, and Kohno led the creation of a uniquely Japanese brand of regional science.
Yoshiro Higano

Rolf Funck (1930–2015): Developing Regional Science in Europe

Rolf Funck was an important contributor to the Regional Science Association’s institutional transformation into the current Regional Science Association International, and he played a key role in the early advancement of regional science in Europe. He guided the development of the annual European Congresses and successfully transplanted, from North America, the idea of regional science Summer Institutes. In this chapter, Daniela Constantin reflects on Funck’s role in the organizational service of regional science in Europe and worldwide, as well as his scholarship’s scientific impact on regional science theory and practice. Funck will be remembered for pioneering contributions to regional growth modelling, to regional competition theory, to understanding the role of cultural activities as a source of competitiveness in urban regions, and to East-West European integration.
Daniela-Luminita Constantin

Antecedents of Regional Science


Jules Dupuit (1804–1866): Cost-Benefit Analysis and Collective Choices

Cost-benefit analysis is today the subject of many criticisms and has been widely debated. Despite these concerns, it remains one of the main methods for the evaluation of public policies, in particular, in transport. This method is rooted in the debates on the measurement of public utility between the engineers of the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées in the nineteenth century and, in particular, within the work of Jules Dupuit. In this chapter, Philippe Poinsot traces Dupuit’s contribution to the measurement of public utility, placing his research in a broader perspective, and clarifying the relationships between public utility and another important concept for engineers known as “intérêt general.” This distinction is important to understand Dupuit’s position on many subjects related to economics and regional science.
Philippe Poinsot

August Lösch (1906–1945): Moral Sentiments, Scholarly Rigor

More than 70 years after his tragic death, the great German economist, August Lösch, remains a source of scientific reflection and debate. An intellectual giant who inspired the growth of regional economics and laid essential foundation stones for regional science, Lösch’s scholarly life in Nazi-Germany is characterized by a painful dilemma between moral integrity in a harsh period of political oppression and the growing need for independent and rigorous scholarly thinking on important political, societal, and spatial issues. In this chapter, Peter Nijkamp assesses Lösch’s all too brief career: his early research on population economics and international trade, which led on to his major contributions on location theory and regional development and to his great ambition to rewrite economic theory from a spatial perspective. The author also highlights the scientific footprints of Lösch in modern regional science.
Peter Nijkamp

Philip Sargant Florence (1890–1982): Pioneer Planning Analyst

In this chapter, Peter Batey assesses the career of Philip Sargant Florence, who was exceptional among economists in having wide interests in applied social science and in promoting interdisciplinary works. Although his name may not be familiar to today’s regional scientists, his ideas on, e.g., measuring spatial industrial concentration—including inventing the location quotient and the coefficient of specialization—have endured. Unlike many contemporaries, Sargent Florence was not interested in pure economic theory, preferring realistic economics and basing generalizations on actual observations. In presenting convincing evidence of how the social sciences—especially geography, economics, and sociology—could benefit urban and regional planning practice, Sargent Florence was an important figure in preparing the ground for the development of the regional science movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
Peter Batey

Gunnar Myrdal (1898–1987): Cumulative Causation Theory Applied to Regions

In this chapter, Hans Westlund evaluates Gunnar Myrdal’s contributions to the analysis of regions’ economic development. Myrdal recognized that economic problems could not be treated in isolation from society as a whole. Myrdal’s most important work for regional science was Economic Theory and Underdeveloped Regions (1957). In contrast to stable equilibrium theory, he emphasized the role of self-reinforcing processes and circular causation for both growth and decline. Pessimistic about development prospects in South and Southeast Asia, mainly due to institutional conditions, Myrdal’s views proved wrong for many Third World countries. Today at the regional level, however, increasing disparities are found in many countries, and his writings feel surprisingly prescient. Both endogenous growth theory and the new economic geography find support in Myrdal’s cumulative causation principle.
Hans Westlund

Laying the Foundations of Regional Science


Martin Beckmann (1924–2017): Polymath Theorist

In this chapter, Gordon Mulligan analyzes how Martin Beckmann, following in the tradition of earlier German economists—including von Thünen and Lösch—developed mathematical models showing how location and space affect the behavior of markets. Early on, Beckmann revealed his interest in understanding human organizations, investigated the nature of traffic flows, and uncovered key properties of spatial networks. Exposed to new methods in mathematical programming, he demonstrated the mutual interdependence of manufacturing plant location and the allocation of their activities. Later, Beckmann modeled how space affects continuous markets and developed hierarchy models for systems of cities conforming to rank-size rules. Beckmann’s contributions were formally recognized when the RSA awarded him its second Founder’s Medal—the first recipient having been the Founder himself, Walter Isard.
Gordon F. Mulligan

Edward Louis Ullman (1912–1976): Establishing the Bases of Regional Science

In this chapter, David Plane discusses the career of Edward Ullman, an American geographer who helped shape the early development of regional science. Ullman was among the pioneers of a more analytical and policy-relevant approach to the discipline of geography, and his three ‘bases of spatial interaction’ are now among its core concepts. An active participant in the formative years of regional science professional organizations, he made major contributions in three areas that remain at the heart of regional science: transportation networks and flows, cities and settlement systems, and the economic structure and development of regions. Ullman’s work blended theory, empirical data, mapping, and traditional geographic description of regions. The bases he laid down for works in regional science live on to the present day.
David Plane

Julian Wolpert (1932– ): Pioneering Quantitative and Behavioral Geographer

In this chapter, the late Roger Stough describes how geographer Julian Wolpert’s career unfolded parallel to, and as a part of, the quantitative and behavioral revolutions in the social sciences, geography, and regional science. Wolpert’s contributions—heavily influenced by Herbert Simon’s critique of the foundations of the normative science of microeconomics—lent new behavioral perspectives on understanding microeconomic behavior. He brought appreciation to geography and regional science of new quantitative approaches, such as mathematical simulation and optimization modeling. In Wolpert’s view, scholarship is not solely for the benefit of intellectuals: it should also contribute to society. A champion of the poor and disempowered, he made contributions to our understandings of philanthropy and social welfare, as well as to the location of noxious facilities.
Roger Stough

Waldo Tobler (1931–2018): Analytical Cartographer and Regional Scientist

In this chapter, Arthur Getis discusses Waldo Rudolph Tobler, one of the world’s leading cartographers, who specialized in mathematical representations of the Earth’s surface. Tobler was among the first to use computers in cartographic and geographic research. He was the inventor of novel and unusual map projections, including a hyper-elliptical, equal area projection that became popular for its ease of use. In one of his publications he made a casual statement about observable earth characteristics: Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things. This became known as Tobler’s First Law of Geography. Its profundity comes from his awakening in many scholars the importance of a spatial or distance-related perspective of the world around them.
Arthur Getis
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