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[ ] We try to give play to curiosity, restricted only by competence.—Carl Sauer to Richard Hartshorne, 1946 9 “The Heart of Human Geography” During the Second World War Sauer’s fears that war with Germany would revive anti-German feelings against the “hyphenates” were never realized.1 But the conflict affected him professionally and personally. John Leighly, whom he relied on heavily for running the department during his frequent absences, and later John Kesseli, were both seconded to Washington, so that Sauer had to stretch his own teaching. Both Sauer’s children also went to Washington. Jonathan, soon to marry Hilda Sievers, was drafted as a weather specialist in the Air Force. Daughter Elizabeth had gone there to work with the Latin American division of the Office of Strategic Services and met her future husband, Edward FitzSimmons. The big redwood house on Arch Street now seemed empty.2 Sauer’s mother’s death in 1942 profoundly affected him. A nonbeliever since his student days in Chicago, he found no consolation in religion; death was brutally final. “It is easy to see why men invented heaven, without which life may seem to be a series of cruel tragedies.”3 His mother’s death was particularly tragic for Sauer. He seemed to need to communicate intimately in writing, and his letters to his mother from 1919 to 1941 were unusually full and frank. When she was no longer there to hear his hopes and fears, his professional correspondence became more overtly personal, including views that could not be expressed in print. For- 130 to pass on a good earth tunately, many of these letters have been saved. In them Sauer railed incessantly against the poor quality of American professional geography, the sins of positivism in the social sciences, and American global modernization. Berkeley Geography Faculty, 1930s to 1940s “We are rather old fashioned,” Sauer wrote a New Zealand geographer who contemplated visiting Berkeley. His department concentrated on geomorphology , biogeography, and historical geography. With no political geography or urban planning, “we are somewhat lonely in this country.”4 Following the European tradition of a solid grounding in landforms, soils, climate, and vegetation, Sauer had pioneered his own brand of cultural geography, again based on European mentors such as Friedrich Ratzel, Eduard Hahn, and the historical landscape scholar Otto Schlüter. In the late 1930s the department was still the small, intimate unit Sauer had created in 1923, with just one more permanent staff member: himself , Leighly, Jan Broek, and Kesseli. In his view expansion was not warranted ; geography was but a part of the wider university, and his students could benefit from, and were encouraged to take, courses in other disciplines with which he had forged close links. The closest were with Alfred Kroeber—who lived just across the street and would meet Sauer on their way down the hill to campus, chattering away in German—and Robert Lowie, both in anthropology. Sauer helped to oversee many anthropology graduate students. Herbert Mason in botany, Howel Williams in geology, Hans Jenny in soil science, Wolfram Eberhard in sociology, M. M. Knight and Paul Taylor in economics, Siegfried Ciriacy-Wantrup and Carl Alsberg in agricultural economics, Lesley Simpson in Spanish, Herbert Bolton and others in history, George Stewart in English, and Alden Miller in zoology were all sympathetic with Sauer’s emphasis on cultural and environmental history, and were virtually “adjuncts of the Geography faculty.” A stream of visiting or long-term lecturers—former student Stanley Jones from Bristol, the Dutch map historian A. A. Devries, the Russian forest biologist Nicholas Mirov, and the Austrian anthropologist Edwin Loeb—added variety and new viewpoints.5 Leighly, who had come to Berkeley from Michigan with Sauer as a gradu- “The Heart of Human Geography” 131 ate student in 1923 and was Sauer’s first Ph.D., was the staff linchpin. Sauer relied on him completely, not only as a teacher of climatology, cartography, the history of geography, and the regional geography of Scandinavia but also as a precise logician who complemented his own speculative and freewheeling bent and who deputized when Sauer was absent. The relationship went deep. It was said that Sauer often gave Leighly penultimate drafts of his work for comment, and Leighly would quietly correct careless mistakes. He succeeded Sauer as chair of the department in 1954. Broek came from the Netherlands in 1931 as a Rockefeller Fellow and soon produced a classic landscape study of the Santa Clara Valley (known today as Silicon...


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