Donald W. Meinig

Donald William Meinig (November 1, 1924 – June 13, 2020) was an American geographer. He was the Maxwell Research Professor Emeritus of Geography at Syracuse University.


Meinig was born on November 1, 1924 in Palouse, Washington. He stated:

Meinig studied foreign service at Georgetown University, and then earned graduate degrees in geography from the University of Washington in 1950 and 1953, under the supervision of Australian geographer Graham Lawton; he was also strongly influenced by historian Carroll Quigley. Starting in 1950, Meinig held a faculty position at the University of Utah. However, in 1958 he left Utah for a visiting position at the University of Adelaide in Australia, under a Fulbright scholarship, and in 1960 he joined the Syracuse faculty. He was chairman of the geography department at Syracuse from 1968 to 1973, became Maxwell Professor at Syracuse in 1990, and retired in 2004.

At Syracuse, Meinig was the doctoral advisor of more than 20 graduate students, including noted New Zealand geographer Evelyn Stokes. He died at Syracuse in June 2020, aged 95.


Meinig's work focuses on historical geography, regional geography, cultural geography, social geography, and landscape interpretation. His most ambitious and well known work is the four volume series "The Shaping of America" (published 1986, 1993, 1998, and 2004). He also concentrated on literary spaces and geography, stating, "Literature is a valuable storehouse of vivid depictions of the landscapes and lives of modern day society."


His principal publications include:

  • The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 4: Global America, 1915-2000 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2004).
  • The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 3: Transcontinental America, 1850-1915 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995).
  • The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2, Continental America, 1800-1867 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992).
  • The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 1, Atlantic America, 1492-1800 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1986).
  • (Editor, with John Brinckerhoff Jackson) The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes (New York, Oxford University Press, 1979).
  • Southwest: Three Peoples in Geographical Change 1600-1970 (New York, Oxford University Press, 1971).
  • Imperial Texas, An Interpretative Essay in Cultural Geography (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1969).
  • The Great Columbia Plain, A Historical Geography, 1805- 1910 (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1968).
  • On the Margins of the Good Earth: The South Australian Wheat Frontier, 1869–84 (London: John Murray, 1962)

Awards and honors

Meinig was a Fulbright Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was the first American geographer to be elected as a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, in 1991. In 1965 the Association of American Geographers awarded him a citation "For Meritorious Contribution to the Field of Geography," and the American Geographical Society gave him their Charles P. Daly Medal in 1986. Meinig received an honorary doctorate (D.H.L.) from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in 1994. The Geographical Review devoted a special issue to him in July 2009. In 2010, he was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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