Material relating to Patrick Geddes, biologist sociologist, educationist and town planner (1854-1932)

Scope and Content

Two of the letters are Geddes' autograph, one dated 23 November 1928, the other 4 December (1928), and both are written on headed notepaper: College des Ecossais, Plan des Quatre Seigneurs, Montpellier, France. The third is a typescript which forms a postscript to the second letter. At the time of writing, Geddes was living in his old age at Montpellier. As ever, Geddes is urging change and new perspectives.

The letters are from Geddes to R. E. Muirhead, chairman of the National Party of Scotland, and they shed new light on his political role.

Administrative / Biographical History

Patrick Geddes was born in Ballater, Aberdeenshire, in October 1854. He was the youngest son of Capt. Alexander Geddes, and he grew up in Perth where he was educated at Perth Academy. He then studied under Thomas Henry Huxley at the Royal School of Mines, London, 1874-1878. He also studied at University College, London, at the Sorbonne and at the University of Edinburgh and at Montpellier, France.

Geddes succesively demonstrated or lectured in Physiology at University College, London, in Zoology at Edinburgh University from 1880 to 1888, and held the Chair of Botany at University College Dundee from 1888 to 1919. At the University of Bombay, India, he organised a department of sociology and civics and held the Chair of Sociology there from 1919 until 1924.

Although trained in Biology, Geddes had generalist interests and these soon led him to become a social geographer, practical administrator, historian, dramatist and philosopher. He involved himself in the renovation movement in the Old Town of Edinburgh and it was in the Old Town too that he situated his famous Outlook Tower, a museum of local, regional, Scottish, and world history. In 1919, Geddes who was 'considered one of the greatest living authorities in civics and social survey' was entrusted by the International Zionist Commission to plan New Jerusalem and its proposed university. He was also the founder - in 1924 - of the College Des Ecossais (Scots College), an international teaching establishment located in Montpellier. In the British Mandated Territory (part of which later became Israel), the new city of Tel Aviv (the White City) was constructed from the early 1930s until the 1950s based on an urban plan by Sir Patrick Geddes - a plan which reflected modern organic planning principles. He was also involved in Indian town planning work.

Publications by Patrick Geddes include: Chapters in modern botany, 1893; City development : a study of parks, gardens, and culture institutes, 1904; Cities in evolution : an introduction to the town planning movement and to the study of civics, 1915; Leben und Werk von Sir Jagadis C. Bose, circa 1930; jointly with Sir J. Arthur Thomson, The evolution of sex, 1889; and, jointly with Victor Verasis Branford, The coming polity: a study in reconstruction, 1917, and Our social inheritance, 1919.

Geddes was knighted in 1932, and Sir Patrick Geddes died in Montpellier, France on April 17, 1932.

Access Information

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

We strongly encourage you to contact us before your visit as special access conditions and restrictions apply to some collections. Please see our information on requesting material

Acquisition Information

Accession no: E2008.54.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Leonard, Sofia G. Catalogues of the Archives of the Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies. Vol.II: The Photographs for the Survey of Edinburgh by Sir Patrick Geddes. Edinburgh : Patrick Geddes Centre for Planning Studies. University of Edinburgh at the Outlook Tower, Castlehill, 1998; (2) Who's who, 1932. London: A. and C. Black; (3) 'To plan New Jerusalem'. New York Times. 20 September 1919.

Other Finding Aids

None prepared for this collection.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D. Eddie, Special Collections, Edinburgh University Library.

Related Material

Held too at Special Collections, Edinburgh University Library, is Material relating to the Outlook Tower Current Events Club, Outlook Tower, Edinburgh. at Gen. 2025. There are also collections relating to Sir Patrick Geddes at Strathclyde University Archives.