Sunday, 12 April 2009 00:00

Leslie Curry dies at the age of 86

The RSAI is sad to hear of the death of Leslie Curry, on January 12, 2009, at the age of 86.

Les was a major contributor to the new theoretical geography of the quantitative revolution and was active in the RSA/RSAI from its early days. Although he began his academic career as a physical geography (even then working on climate change) he will best remembered for his pioneering work on settlement theory, gravity modelling and stochastic processes generally for map description.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends and former colleagues at the University of Toronto.

Full obituary appears below.

In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Leslie Curry

Author: Anonymous

Les Curry, Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Toronto and recipient of the Meritorious Contributions Award of the Association of American Geographers in 1969, died on January 12, 2009, at his home in Annapolis, MD. He was 86. He was pre-deceased by his first wife, Jean Blick Curry, who died in 1981. Survivors include his wife of 18 years, Caryl Pines Curry of Annapolis; three children from his first marriage, William Curry of Oakville, Ontario, Claudia Curry of Port Hope, Ontario, and Ann Curry-Stevens of Portland, Ore.; two stepchildren, Eve Pines of Springfield, Ill., and Roger Pines of Chicago; and seven grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be held at the Faculty Club, University of Toronto, on Monday, April 20th 2009. If you would like to attend, please contact Andrew Malcolm at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Les Curry was born and raised in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. After a standard grammar-school education, at age 18 he volunteered for the Royal Navy, and joined the 14th destroyer flotilla (as a radar mechanic) based initially in Alexandria, Egypt. His ship joined convoys to supply Malta and then supported invasions in the Aegean and Italy. It was in Anzio that his ship had its bows blown off, requiring a return to Britain via Gibraltar. Next, he was in the Normandy invasion when the bombardment of special targets was the main activity. When the war ended, he was training as crew on a submarine destined for deployment to the Far East.

Les Curry graduated from Kings College at the University of Durham in 1949. Two years later, he received a master's degree in geography from Johns Hopkins University while he was a Fulbright Scholar. He worked as an economist at the United Nations and then at Charles Warren Thornthwaite's Laboratory of Climatology in Seabrook, N.J. He received his doctorate in geography from the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 1959 and taught at the University of Washington, the University of Maryland and Arizona State University before moving to the University of Toronto, where he spent 21 years before retiring in 1985. He then moved to Annapolis. 

As a theoretician, Les Curry was a modeler, using stochastic analysis to delvep deeply into processes, especially economic, that produce the patterns and flows of the world. One of his early papers showed that natural climatic change could occur as the result of random exchanges involving heat storage in the oceans. Another paper treated central places, again in terms of inventory management and stochastic processes. Author of the book The Random Spatial Economy and Its Evolution (1998), he was featured in Geographical Voices (2002), an anthology of autobiographical essays by 14 eminent geographers, edited by Peter Gould and Forrest Pitts. 

In addition to his AAG Meritorious Contributions award, Les Curry's honours included a Visiting Commonwealth Professorship in the U.S.; a Guggenheim Fellowship at Cambridge University; an inaugural Connaught Senior Fellowship in the Social Sciences; a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation's Study Center in Bellagio; a Fellowship at Australian National University; and the Canadian Association of Geographers' Award for Scholarly Distinction. He also received the International Geographical Union's prestigious Lauréat d'Honneur 2000; only three or four are awarded every fourth year at the IGU's conference. The IGU citation describes him as 'a scholar who by way of his contributions in climatology, economic geography and spatial analysis has challenged established lines of thinking and provided valuable new insights into the ways whereby human behavior shapes the world we live in. Professor Curry's theoretical studies in economic geography, especially studies that draw upon the mathematics of probability theory and the concepts of physical systems analysis, have been unmatched in their originality and rigor and have established his international reputation as one of the leading theoreticians in the discipline.?  

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