India through the Eyes of Ellen Churchill Semple: Postcards Collected on her Asian Tour between 1911 and 1912 Descriptions by Toni Greider and Mary Pattengill; digital images by Crystal Heis. Portrait of Ellen Churchill Semple shown above provided by the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center. Click here to download a brochure about this virtual exhibit.
Ellen Churchill Semple (January 8, 1863—May 8, 1932) is considered one of the 20th century’s foremost geographers. She was born in Louisville, Ky to an affluent family and attended Vassar College at the age of 15. She graduated at the age of 19 as the class valedictorian as well as the youngest in her class. She returned to Vassar to complete a master’s degree in 1891. On completion of her studies at Vassar she spent time under the tutelage of German geographer and ethnographer, Friedrich Ratzel whose views shaped her illustrious career.
Her work took her to the hills of Eastern Kentucky (where she introduced the anthropogeographic method in American academic academic journals and to American students) to her final work on the Mediterranean region. Her academic home was spread across the world and she was a keen believer in experiencing place and people as a means of better understanding them. Ellen Semple received many honors in her career and continues to be honored by the UK Geography Department with the celebration of Ellen Churchill Semple Day. Now in its 45th year, Ellen Churchill Semple Day will be celebrated in April of 2017.
This exhibit displays postcards Miss Semple collected in India during her Asian tour of 1911 and 1912 when she took a break from her academic work to visit Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and India. The exhibit illustrates her keen interest in how people and place cannot be separated. Her focus ranged from the monuments, to transportation, and to the people of the region and indicates a strong interest in a connection between humans and the environment.
Biographical information based on the article, Ellen Churchill Semple, by Charles C. Colby,
published in Annals of the Association of American Geographers