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Regental Professor Will Receive American Association of Geographers Award

Dr. Brian Berry

Dr. Brian Berry, one of the pioneers of modern geography who is credited with changing the course of his discipline, has been selected to receive the 2020 Stanley Brunn Award for Creativity in Geography from the American Association of Geographers (AAG).  

The annual award recognizes an individual geographer or team that has demonstrated originality, creativity and significant intellectual breakthroughs in the study of lands, features, inhabitants and phenomena.

“The award is a nice capstone at the end of a very long career,” said Berry, the Lloyd Viel Berkner Regental Professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS) at The University of Texas at Dallas. “I knew Stan Brunn personally, when he was a graduate student. This is both a wonderful personal and professional experience. I am very pleased to receive the award.”

Ironically, academic journals declined to publish Berry’s work in the early days, he said.

“In graduate school, I wrote a master’s thesis that turned into a set of four research papers,” Berry explained. “I submitted the papers to two journals, but they were rejected. The third journal accepted one paper as an experiment, to see how readers would react. Years later that paper was the most-cited paper in the field.”

Berry, who in 1975 became the youngest social scientist elected to the National Academy of Sciences and who subsequently served as president of the AAG from 1978-1979, is considered one of the most influential figures in the disciplines of geography, urban studies and regional planning. His early urban and regional research helped spark a scientific revolution that occurred in geography and urban research in the early 1960s, making him one of the world’s most-cited geographers for more than 25 years.

“Dr. Berry’s expertise and his dedication to research, scholarship, and his mentorship of and support of students has been exceptional,” said Dr. Inga Musselman, UT Dallas provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This recognition by the American Association of Geographers is a welcome and deserved achievement.” 

Throughout his distinguished career, Berry has successfully bridged geographic theory to practice and has been heavily involved in urban and regional planning in both advanced and developing countries. He helped transform the science of economics by introducing geographical considerations into economic equations.

“Among the simple mathematical rules that describe the geography of the city is the principle of ‘distance decay,’” Berry said. “Land values and population densities decline exponentially with distance from the high-demand city core to the low densities of the periphery.”

“Dr. Berry’s expertise and his dedication to research, scholarship, and his mentorship of and support of students has been exceptional. This recognition by the American Association of Geographers is a welcome and deserved achievement.”

Dr. Inga Musselman, UT Dallas provost and vice president for academic affairs

Berry is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the British Academy. In 1988 he received the Royal Geographical Society’s highest honor, the Victoria Medal. In 2005 he received the Vautrin Lud Prize — considered the “Nobel Prize for Geography.”

His more recent research has focused on investigations of long-term economic and political cycles, or Kondratieff waves, in market societies, work for which he received a Kondratieff Medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2017.

“No other geographer has had more of an impact on the field of geography and social science in general than Brian Berry,” said Dr. Jennifer S. Holmes, dean of EPPS and professor of political science, public policy and political economy. “We have been fortunate to have him as a senior scholar, dean and mentor since 1986. The significance of his scholarship is matched only by the intensity of his work ethic.”

Berry was dean of the UT Dallas School of Social Sciences before engineering its transformation into the current-day EPPS. His academic career began at University College London, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1955. He earned his master’s in geography in 1956 and his doctoral degree in 1958, both from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Of all his accolades, however, Berry is most proud of the students who have gone on to very successful careers.

“I have enjoyed most the mentorship of teaching,” he said. “I loved the excitement of being able to put discoveries to useful application. As a professor, one hopes to be creative and pass along a love of learning.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].