Jean Gottmann Biography

(French Geographer Who Introduced the Concept of 'Megalopolis')

Birthday: October 10, 1915 (Libra)

Born In: Kharkiv, Ukraine

Jean Gottmann was an exceptional French geographer most reputed for his consequential study of the urban region of the Northeast Megalopolis (also referred as Boston–Washington Corridor). The term, ‘megalopolis’ was coined by him to describe the upsurge of urban development in the zone stretching from Boston to Washington DC. He was an unusual geographer, who was aware of the global advancements as also the influence of English geographers. While defending geographical tradition, he also made efforts to modernize it and eliminate the theoretical and methodological flaws associated with it. His work on human geography encompassed the historical, political, urban, regional and economic sub-fields. The specific regions that he concentrated his work on encompassed France, United States, Japan, Israel and the Mediterranean. He was a prolific writer and his writings included subjects from capitals to central cities and urban development both from political and spatial point of views. His most remarkable works include ‘Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States ‘, ‘A Geography of Europe’ and ‘Centre and Periphery: Spatial Variation in Politics’. The ‘American Geographical Society’ awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 1956 and the ‘Charles P. Daly Medal’ in 1964. He remained a fellow of the ‘British Academy’ and the ‘American Academy of Arts and Sciences’. He was also awarded the ‘Victoria Medal’ by the ‘Royal Geographical Society’ in 1980.
Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In October

Also Known As: Ivan Jean Gottmann

Died At Age: 78


Spouse/Ex-: Bernice Adelson

father: Elie Gottmann

mother: Sonia-Fanny Ettinger

Born Country: Ukraine

Geographers French Men

Died on: February 28, 1994

place of death: Oxford, United Kingdom

City: Kharkiv, Ukraine

More Facts

education: University Of Paris

awards: Honorary Fellowship from the American Geographical Society in 1956
Charles P. Daly Medal in 1964
Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society 1980
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences[4] and the British Academy

Childhood & Early Life
He was born on October 23, 1915, in Kharkov, Ukraine, Russian Empire in a Jewish industrialist family to Elie Gottmann and Sonia-Fanny Ettinger as their only child. His parents were assassinated in February 1918 after the 1917 ‘Russian Revolution’.
He was adopted and raised by his aunt Emily Gottmann and uncle Michel Berchin, with whom he fled to Paris in 1921.
He studied in the Sorbonne and during his student life came under the guidance of French geographer Albert Demangeon and remained one of the latter’s closest collaborators.
Continue Reading Below
In 1937 he became a research assistant in economic geography at the ‘University of Paris’ under the supervision of Albert Demangeon. However in 1941 his career in France was suddenly impeded by the ‘World War II’ and he had to give up the position following the invasion of Nazis in France and the 1940 Statute of Jews that prevented him from holding public job.
On December 7, 1941, the day when the Japanese conducted surprise aerial attack on the United States’ Pearl Harbor naval base on the Oahu Island, Hawaii, Gottmann landed in the United States.
For the next thirty years he relocated himself in several cities in America and Europe holding various research, teaching and political positions.
After receiving a fellowship from the ‘Rockefeller Foundation’ he attended the ‘Institute for Advanced Study’ in Princeton, New Jersey. From 1942 to 1965 he remained an associate researcher at the institute.
He joined the ‘La France Libre’, the government-in-exile, which was led by French military general and statesman Charles de Gaulle during the ‘World War II’. During that time he also joined the ousted academic community of France who were teaching at the private research university in New York City, the ‘New School for Social Research’.
While the war was going on he was also consulted for the ‘Board of Economic Warfare’ in Washington and other organisations.
Meanwhile in 1943, American geographer and the then President of the ‘Johns Hopkins University’, Isaiah Bowman inducted him in the university as a lecturer and researcher. He served the university till 1948.
In 1945 he came back to France where he served as an advisor to the ‘Ministry of Economy’.
From 1946 to 1947 he remained director of research at the ‘United Nations’.
Continue Reading Below

Post war he began to travel between United States and France in an attempt to elucidate the human geography of America to the French populace and that of Europe to the Americans.
Three of his works that included ‘La politique des Etats et leur géographie’ (1952), ‘Eléménts de géographie politique (1954-55), and ‘The Significance of Territory’ (1973) and many of his articles brought out the concept of political geography. He suggested a re-conceptualisation of geography, the main concept of which was division of geographical space.
After receiving a grant from the American philanthropist Paul Mellon he studied from 1953 to 1955 and produced the first ever regional analysis of Virginia.
With the financial aid of the progressive think tank ‘The Century Foundation’ headquartered in the New York City, Gottmann analysed the megalopolis of the North-Eastern seaboard of US. In this regard he published a book titled ‘Megalopolis: The Urbanized North-eastern Seaboard of the United States in 1961 that include a geographical analysis of the east coast of the US covering Boston, Baltimore, New York, Washington, D.C. and many other cities and urban regions. The word ‘megalopolis’ was used by him to define the concept of an emerging urban development in the region that stretched from Boston to Washington, D. C.
He accepted invitation of Alexandre Koyré, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Fernand Braudel and joined the ‘École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales’ (‘School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences’) in Paris in 1961 and served as a senior lecturer till 1983.
In 1968 he was inducted by the ‘University of Oxford’ as Professor of Geography and Head of Department at the School of Geography. He became professor emeritus of the university in 1983 and remained associated with the university till his death.
He received financial support from renowned foundations like the ‘Twentieth Century Fund’ for his research and analysis, which he carried on along with his teaching and political responsibilities.
He travelled extensively attending lectures and conferences and while doing so created a network of friends, colleagues, associates and followers around the world.
Some of his other notable books and papers are ‘L'homme, la route et l'eau en Asie sud-occidentale’ (1938), ‘De la méthode d'analyse en géographie humaine, Annales de Géographie’ (1947), ‘Virginia at mid-Century’ (1955), ‘Les marchés des matières premières’ (1957), ‘Etudes sur l'Etat d'Israel’ (1958), ‘Essais sur l'amenagement de l'espace habité’ (1966), ‘La città invincibile’ (1983), ‘Since Megalopolis’ (1990) and ‘Beyond Megalopolis’ (1994).
Personal Life & Legacy
Gottmann married Bernice Adelson in 1957.
On February 28, 1994, he passed away at the age of 78 years at his home in Oxford, England, after suffering from cancer.

See the events in life of Jean Gottmann in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Jean Gottmann Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

Elisee Reclus
Elisee Reclus
Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin
Gerardus Mercator
Gerardus Mercator
Muhammad al-Idrisi
Muhammad al-Idrisi
Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell
Carl Ritter
Carl Ritter
Henry Gannett
Henry Gannett