Seeing Life Whole

Patrick Geddes was born in 1854 in Ballater, Aberdeenshire and died in Montpellier, Provence in 1932. In his Obituary, written for The Spectator Magazine, the novelist E.M.Forster wrote: “Sir Patrick Geddes was seventy-eight, but he had the adventurous spirit of a young man, and it was characteristic of him to spend his last few years in founding a Scots College at Montpellier to promote friendship among all peoples. He was primarily a biologist and a botanist, as befitted an old student of Thomas Huxley's.

But though he lectured for many years on his special subjects at Edinburgh and Dundee, he was far better known as a sociologist in India, as a town-planner at Jerusalem, and, in his "Outlook Tower " by the Castle at Edinburgh as the promoter of all good causes, educational and other, for the benefit of mankind. To sum up Patrick Geddes in a few lines would be impossible, for he touched life at so many points. His influence was inspiring and will endure.”

Making connections

Forster coined the phrase ‘Only connect’ and that would have made a fitting epitaph for Geddes. Above all else Geddes made connections: between people, between people and the planet, between people and buildings, between culture and place, between arts and science, between religious beliefs and between academic disciplines, eschewing specialism for generalism. This connectivity and interdisciplinary thinking, along with a passion for life and love of humanity makes him a beacon of light and source of inspiration in our own complex and divided times.