Fonds 1679 - Donald F. Putnam fonds

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UTA 1679


Donald F. Putnam fonds


  • [192-] - 1985 (Creation)

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2.33 m of records (multimedia) (13 boxes)

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Biographical history

Donald Fulton Putnam was born in Lower Onslow Nova Scotia in 1903. He received a BSA from the Ontario Agricultural College in 1931 and completed his Ph.D in Botany at the University of Toronto in 1935. In 1938, while working part-time as a lecturer and conducting research at the Ontario Research Foundation, he approached Griffith Taylor for a position in the newly formed Department of Geography. Thus began his lifelong career in the Department from 1938 to his retirement in 1974, succeeding Griffith Taylor as Chair from 1953-1963 and moving to Erindale campus in 1966.

His research interests lay mainly in the study of agriculture, soils and geomorphology on which he published numerous articles. His hallmark work The Physiography of Southern Ontario, written with colleague Lyman Chapman of the Ontario Research Foundation was a culmination of 16 years of field research and is still widely consulted. Putnam collaborated with other geographers to write the first modern systematic geography text Canadian Regions, which was widely adopted at both the university and senior high school levels. It was first published in 1952 and survived eight editions. Other books along the same lines include A Regional Analysis of Canada and its updated version written with his son Robert Putnam, Canada: A Regional Analysis.

Through his writings and teaching activities, Putnam was influential in defining how Geography was to be studied and taught. In the Department of Geography, he was praised for his field trips that inspired many of his students to make a career of geography. Many went on to teach and set up geography programs and departments at both the highschool and university levels. In 1951 he helped found the Canadian Association of Geographers and was honoured at being elected its first President. In the mid- 1950s, he was an active member of the Geography Teachers’ Association of Ontario that wrote curriculum for the teaching of senior high school geography.

Putnam was recognized for his achievements with several awards including the Massey Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 1969 and the Service to the Profession Award from the Canadian Association of Geographers in 1972. York University bestowed an Honorary Degree upon him in 1974. Putnam died in 1977. His obituary in Canadian Geographer (XXV, 4, 1981) called him “The dean of English-speaking Canadian geographers”.

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Records document Putnam’s career including his research, writings, teaching, professional activities, administrative duties, and student work.

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