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The Role of Geographer and Natural Scientist Henri Francois Pittier (1857-1950) in the Evolution of Geography as a Science in Costa Rica

Mellen Studies in Geography S. No. 12

By (author) Leon Yacher
Format: Hardback
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd, New York, United States
Imprint: Edwin Mellen Press Ltd
Published: 30th Nov 2004
ISBN-10: 0773463380
ISBN-13: 9780773463387
Barcode No: 9780773463387
This work traces the development of Pittier as a man and scholar, and it evaluates his role and impact in the development of geography in Costa Rica and Latin America.

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"Swiss by origin, this multifaceted, polyglot moved to Costa Rica at age 30 in 1887, to a country undergoing rapid modernization, a country that welcomed foreign scientists no less than laborers for its emerging plantation agriculture. Pittier plunged into his new environs "con gusto", rapidly becoming involved in field research first collecting plants and insects, then involved in government commissions. His natural scientific interests developed to include the study of social problems - transportation routes, alcoholism, native languages-- and, in 1889, the icon of his efforts: establishing the Physical Geographic Institute, and soon afterwards a herbarium. Costa Rica was ever more firmly put on the map by Pittier's voluminous correspondence with key scientists back in Europe and the USA. Boxes of plants traversed the oceans to foreign herbaria, bearing witness to Pittier's diligent research, notwithstanding the continuous pain he suffered in a permanently damaged leg....His death in 1950, at the ripe old age of 92, marked the end of a remarkable career; but by then geography had become much more refined and restricted as a discipline. European and United States specialists had professionalized the discipline, and Pittier must have sensed the demise of the natural science that he had practiced for so long. However, he would no doubt be delighted to know that his impact on the study of Costa Rica and Venezuela has been memorialized in named parks, rivers, prizes, and postage stamps. Few geographers can make such claims." - Dr. David J. Robinson, Syracuse University "It has been argued that without a history of its own a discipline can not be considered legitimate. Understanding specific historical episodes that affected a discipline is not only gained through the identification of various incidents that took place over time, but also the players that influenced those events, paradigms, and teachings, which characterized the discipline. In the case of the history of geography, the literature is rich, but its principal concentration on Anglo America and Europe has left other parts of the world sorely lacking; this is especially the case with regard to Latin America. Professor Yacher has begun filling that need, first with his work on the Italian-Peruvian geographer Antonio Raimondi, and now with this complete study on the contributions of Swiss-born Costa Rican Henri Pittier, both relative unknowns in the United States, but essentially luminaries in Peru and Costa Rica, respectively. No forthcoming effort is being attempted by Latin American geographers to conduct a comprehensive study of the history of geography in Costa Rica (or of Latin America, or of other specific countries within the region); it is simply not possible at this time because the preliminary work essential for such a task has yet to be done. Moreover, no major works on the history of the discipline in Latin America have been written until now, which are necessary for a better understanding of geography as a discipline as a whole. As a Latin American born Latin Americanist American geographer, Yacher has been able to overcome the funding difficulties faced by Latin American geographers and the cultural barriers faced by Americans and Europeans devoted to the history of geographic thought. Leon Yacher has gained access to archives on three continents heretofore left unexamined by historians of the geographic discipline to complete this work, an essential first stage toward a much needed comprehensive study of the history of geography in Latin America." - M.S. DeVivo, Grand Rapids Community College"