Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gilbert F. White

In light of the current situation on the Mississippi River I thought it might be useful to post the Wikipedia discussion of Dr. Gilbert F. White, the modern father of the discipline of FPM [floodplain management]! Too bad the Obama Administration has not updated the two Carter Executive Orders, EO 11990 and 11988! I have personal knowledge that Dr. White approved of those orders as a significant step in the right direction for federal policy.

Gilbert F. White
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gilbert Fowler White (November 26, 1911 in Chicago – October 5, 2006 in Boulder, Colorado) was a prominent American geographer, sometimes termed the "father of floodplain management" and the "leading environmental geographer of the 20th century" (Wescoat, 2006). White is known predominantly for his work on natural hazards, particularly flooding, and the importance of sound water management in contemporary society.


1 Background
2 Scholarly contributions
3 Recognition
4 Publications
5 References
6 External links
7 Notes


White was raised in Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood, and spent summers in the Tongue River Valley of Wyoming, before studying at the University of Chicago, where he earned his B.S. in 1932 and his PhD in 1942. From 1946 to 1955 he was President of Haverford College. He then returned to Chicago as a professor of geography, where he was the central figure in the "Chicago school" of natural hazards research. In 1970, he moved to the University of Colorado, before retiring after ten years there. Having published his first paper in 1935, he was still publishing into his 90s (Wescoat and White, 2003).

White was motivated by his Quaker faith to do research beneficial to humanity. As a conscientious objector to World War II, from 1942 to 1946 he served with the American Friends Service Committee aiding war refugees in France, and was briefly interned by the Nazis at Baden-Baden. He continued to serve as a leader in various Quaker service organizations for much of his life. He was also heavily involved in applying his research to reform flooding and water policy in the United States and the Middle East.

In 1944, White married Anne Underwood, with whom he would have three children (Will, Mary, and Frances). Anne collaborated with Gilbert in his research until her death in 1989. Gilbert remarried in 2003 to Claire Sherridan.

Scholarly contributions

White's main contributions to society and to scholarship have been classified by Kates (2007) as follows:

How to bring safe water to all the world’s people as a human right
How to reduce significantly the global toll of hazard deaths and damages
How to facilitate peace, through joint water development and management
How to make geography (in particular) and science (in general) more useful to the world
How to enable people to coexist with nature and develop sustainably.