The Father of American Geography

By Samuel Phineas Upham

William Morris Davis was born in 1850 to a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Harvard, graduating with a Masters in Engineering, and is often referred to as the “Father of American Geography”. Davos became interested in the intersection of meteorology and geography, and he studied both at the same time.

Through his work, scientists are able to clearly see the meterological event and the corresponding geographical affect. Without this information, we would understand far less about concepts such as soil erosion or mudslides.

Davis also studied many aspects of nature, including how weather affected the wildlife and fauna around him. Eventually, he took his expertise back to Harvard where he became an instructor.

His cycle of erosion, created in 1884, defined the method that rivers helped to create and define land masses. It was critical for its time, but is simplistic by today’s standards.

Davis was able to successfully show how the rivers flow, and how different sections are formed over time. He became intensely focused on the effects of water to the landscape, especially precipitation. He documented how river runoff contributed to other bodies of water, and created land masses.

Davis became intensely involved with the National Geographic Society during his later years, and penned a great many articles for them. In 1904, Davis formed the Association of American Geographers, which occupied a great deal of his time. He was married three times throughout his life, but he never strayed far from his work. He died in California in 1934, at the age of 83.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his LinkedIn.