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Faculty_Focus

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Mark_Monmonier

Distinguished Professor Mark Monmonier, who teaches geography in the Maxwell School and The College of Arts and Sciences, stands before a replica of the Globe of Martin Behaim (1492) in Maxwell's Eggers Hall.





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Faculty_Focus

Taking_the_mystery_out_of_maps

Buffy Aksa Quinn had no doubts about where to pursue a degree in historical geography: Syracuse University. Why SU? Because only here could she study under Mark Monmonier."
      Mark never believes me when I say this, but he's really the reason I became a geographer," says the first-year doctoral student in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. "He wrote the first textbook I had in geography. That book was so wonderful—and I still have a copy—that it made me want to be a geographer. It made me want to do the kinds of things Mark Monmonier had written about."
      Monmonier, a Distinguished Professor who teaches geography in the Maxwell School and The College of Arts and Sciences, takes the mystery out of maps. An internationally known cartographer and author, his works include Maps With the News: The Development of American Journalistic Cartography (1989), How to Lie With Maps (1991), and Drawing the Line: Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversy (1994). His most recent book, Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America (1997), garnered national attention from scholars and media intrigued by his list of the 10 riskiest places in the United States. His top ranking of "almost any place in California" prompted the Santa Barbara News Press to exclaim, "Eat your heart out, America. We're No. 1."
      Monmonier, who has been at SU since 1973, began his career developing techniques to display and analyze geographic data. His 1969 dissertation on geographic computer information systems was among the first of its kind. Over the years, however, his work turned toward uses of geographic data and the history of 20th-century cartography. "It's not uncommon these days to find maps serving more than one role," Monmonier says. "Hazard maps are in some ways tools of science, in some ways tools of public management, and in some applications instruments of propaganda. You want to use them to convince people not to do something they shouldn't be doing, or to persuade them to do something they should be doing."
      Monmonier found maps in the Library of Congress dealing primarily with earthquakes and volcanoes. Information on a wide variety of hazards was available, however, in computer databases. "Some are natural hazards, like tornadoes, hurricanes, and seismic sea waves, and some are technological hazards, such as radioactive waste, toxic chemicals, pollution of groundwater, and air pollution."
      He became interested in hazard maps while researching Drawing the Line. "There were some things I wanted to say that didn't fit in terribly well with the book, which used a number of hypothetical examples. I wanted to get into some real-world stories." Similarly, a chapter on weather maps in Maps With the News spawned his current manuscript for a book on meteorological cartography. "There were weather maps in newspapers in Britain as early as 1875," he says. "I became intrigued by the whole process of how people started to take meteorological data and put them on maps."
      His most ambitious project may be coediting The History of Cartography, Volume Six, a 1,500-page tome dealing with 20th-century mapmaking. "It's somewhat daunting," he says. "For earlier volumes, editors were able to find people who had done research on, say, medieval cartography, and commission them to write chapters. What's particularly tricky here is that not many people have written about 20th-century cartography."
      Monmonier says there's substantial interaction between his writing and teaching. Each fall he offers a graduate seminar based on his current area of research; last fall Quinn took his seminar on 20th-century cartography. "We discussed a lot of the issues he encounters researching this kind of book," she says. "When he's doing a book on a subject, he really gets deeply involved. He takes that research effort and brings it to students."
      Quinn also notes that Monmonier is teaching Introduction to Physical Geography. "He's a Distinguished Professor—he doesn't have to teach 100-level classes. But he wanted to because of the book he wrote on weather maps. He knew he would have that enthusiasm about the weather portion of the course."
                                  —GARY PALLASSINO



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Main Home Page Summer 1998 Issue Contents
Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks In Basket
H. Douglas Barclay Vision Quest Student Career Services
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Student Center Faculty Focus Research Report
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