Ron Johnston (geographer)

Ronald John Johnston, OBE, FAcSS, FBA (born 30 March 1941[1] in Swindon,[2] England) is a British human geographer, known for elaborating his discipline's foundations, particularly its history and nature, and for his contributions to urban social geography and electoral geography. His broad scope is illustrated by the fact that he makes extensive use of quantitative methods, while critically dealing with subjects of social and political relevance.[2] Johnston also is an unusually productive author: As of December 2009, he has authored or co-authored more than 50 books and 800 papers, and edited or co-edited a further more than 40 books (if translated and revised editions are counted separately).[3][4] Among the books he has edited is The Dictionary of Human Geography, the first four editions of which as main editor.

Academic career

After receiving his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Manchester in 1962 and 1964, respectively, he moved to Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. There, Johnston obtained a PhD degree, and came in contact with what has become known as the quantitative revolution of geography.[2] He also wrote his first paper on urban social geography during that time. From 1967–1974, he was part of the academic staff at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where his interest in electoral geography began to develop. Johnston then was appointed professor at the University of Sheffield. In 1979, Geography and Geographers, which he has updated and expanded every few years since then, and whose various editions have been translated into four languages,[4] was published. Johnston became co-editor of the two journals Progress in Human Geography and Environment and Planning A that same year. In 1981, the first edition of The Dictionary of Human Geography, to which Johnston has contributed hundreds of articles,[4] was published. It has maintained its status as the discipline's authoritative dictionary ever since.[5] After serving as pro-vice-chancellor for academic affairs of the University of Sheffield, he became vice-chancellor of the University of Essex in 1992.[6] Since 1995, Johnston has been professor at the University of Bristol. He resigned from the editorial boards of both Progress in Human Geography and Environment and Planning A in 2006.


Johnston has been one of the most cited geographers for decades.[note 1] Among the most prestigious awards Johnston has received are the Murchison Award (1985) and the Victoria Medal (1990) by the Royal Geographical Society, the Prix Vautrin Lud at the International Geography Festival 1999, and a lifetime achievement award from the Association of American Geographers (2009).[3] Furthermore, he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Essex (D.Univ. 1996),[6] Monash University (LL.D. 1999),[7] the University of Sheffield (Litt.D. 2002)[8] and the University of Bath (Litt.D. 2005).[9] He was elected a founding Academician (later renamed fellow) of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) in 1999, and was elected an ordinary fellow of the British Academy in 1999.[1] Johnston was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to scholarship.[10]

Selected publications


  • Johnston, R. J. (1971): Urban Residential Patterns: An Introductory Review. London (G . Bell & Sons). ISBN 0-7135-1675-5
  • Johnston, R. J. (1978): Multivariate Statistical Analysis in Geography: A Primer on the General Linear Model. London (Longman). ISBN 0-582-48677-7
  • Taylor, P. J. and R. J. Johnston (1979): Geography of Elections. Harmondsworth (Penguin). ISBN 0-7099-0056-2
  • Johnston, R. J. (1979): Geography and Geographers: Anglo-American Human Geography since 1945. London (Edward Arnold). ISBN 0-7131-6239-2 (7th edition announced for publication in 2010)
  • Johnston, R. J. (1991): A Question of Place: Exploring the Practice of Human Geography. Blackwell (Oxford). ISBN 0-631-15603-8

Edited Collections

  • Johnston, R .J. et al. (eds.) (1981): The Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford (Blackwell). ISBN 0-631-10721-5 (5th edition published in 2009)
  • Johnston, R. J., P. J. Taylor and Michael Watts (eds.) (1995): Geographies of Global Change: Remapping the World in the Late Twentieth Century. London (Blackwell). ISBN 0-631-19327-8


  1. In an analysis of citation records based on the SSCI and the SCI, he was identified as the second most cited geographer for 1981–1985, and the third most cited one for 1986–1990 (Bodman, A. (1992): Holes in the Fabric. More on the Master Weavers in Human Geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 17 (1): 108–109). In another citation count that covered more than 20 years (1981 – October 2002), this time based on the SSCI and the A&HCI, Johnston was listed as one of twelve geographers who had been cited more than 1000 times (Yeung, H. W. (2002): Deciphering citations. Environment and Planning A 34 (12): 2093–2102).


  1. 1 2 British Academy Fellows Archive
  2. 1 2 3 Sidaway, J. (2009): Johnston, R. J. In: International Encyclopedia of Human Geography: 11–13. Elsevier (Amsterdam).
  3. 1 2 Professor Johnston receives a lifetime achievement award Archived 29 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Announcement by the University of Bristol. Published 3 December 2009, retrieved 3 February 2010
  4. 1 2 3 List of publications, as of 2009
  5. Setten, G. (2008): Encyclopaedic Vision: Speculating on The Dictionary of Human Geography. Geoforum 39 (3): 1097–1104.
  6. 1 2 University of Essex Calendar Archived 7 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine., retrieved on 22 February 2010
  7. Roll of Honorary Graduates at Monash University (1990–1999), retrieved on 22 February 2010
  8. University of Sheffield Honorary Degree Recipients 2002, retrieved on 22 February 2010
  9. University of Bath Honorary Graduates 2005
  10. "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 11.
  • Biography on the University of Bristol's website
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