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Ristow, Walter W. 1908-2006

RISTOW, Walter W. 1908-2006
(Walter William Ristow)


See index for CA sketch: Born April 20, 1908, in La Crosse, WI; died of coronary artery disease, April 3, 2006, in Mitchellville, MD. Geographer, cartographer, and author. A longtime geographer for the Library of Congress, Ristow was a respected cartographer who was instrumental in the growth of map librarianship in America. A 1931 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he earned a master's degree from Oberlin College in 1933, and a doctorate from Clark University in 1937. After working as a geography instructor for Eastern Washington State College in the mid 1930s, he was named head of the map room at the New York Public Library in 1937. During World War II, he was an analyst and map specialist for the U.S. War Department, and through this work began preserving maps that had been confiscated by the military. This was the beginning of map librarianship for him, and after the war he was hired by the Library of Congress as assistant chief of the Map Division. Promoted to chief in 1967, he remained there until his retirement in 1978. At the Library of Congress, Ristow helped build a huge collection of modern and historical maps that now numbers in the millions; he was also at the forefront of his field in his championing of computerized cartography. After leaving the library, Ristow was a founder of the Washington Map Society, which would name an award after him. He was also the author of many books about maps, including What about Maps? (1955), Guide to the History of Cartography: An Annotated List of References on the History of Maps and Mapmaking (1973), and American Maps and Map-makers (1985).



New York Times, April 17, 2006, p. B7.

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