Karl Raitz Appointed State Geographer
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Karl Raitz, a professor of geography at UK, has been named the next Kentucky state geographer. In this post appointed by the governor, Raitz will assist state and local officials with boundary studies, mapping, cartographic programs, planning and zoning, and land-use studies, serve as a resource for teachers and publishers of geography textbooks, and work with geographers in other states to analyze and disseminate geographic information..

“Along with these other activities, I have a particular interest in working with researchers who are developing digital data sets for use in Geographic Information Systems analysis of mapping and environmental problems,” adds Raitz, who will serve a one-year term beginning January 1.

A former chair of his department at UK and a long-time student of culture and its material artifacts, Raitz has spent the past 35 years examining American landscapes, an interest which began during his undergraduate days. As a student traveling through Kentucky on the way back to his native Minnesota, Raitz says he was swept off his feet by the Bluegrass. He took a visiting professorship in geography at the University of Kentucky in 1970 and never left.

His early interest in this region focused on how the most extensive collection of quarried rock fences still standing in the United States came to be built. His investigation traced the origins of the fences to the work of Irish stonemasons who came to the Bluegrass in the mid-19th century. The detective work of Raitz and his co-researcher, Carolyn Murray-Wooley, an architectural historian, led to the publication of Rock Fences of the Bluegrass.

Raitz says he is particularly proud of another publication, The Atlas of Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky), which he co-authored with UK colleagues Richard Ulack and Gyula Pauer. “This was a major undertaking. More than 20 researchers working in collaboration over a period of eight years contributed to this effort,” Raitz says.

Currently, he is working on several projects relating to the role of roads as a shaping influence on landscapes. His research in this area has led to publication of two books: The National Road and A Guide to the National Road.—JW