David Wright, who died on 20 November 2009 after a battle with cancer, was a geographer and author whose work inspired children around the world.
David graduated from Cambridge University and then trained as a teacher, undertaking an MA in Geography in Education from London University, Institute of Education. He taught in Stevenage and Pittsburgh before moving to Norfolk in 1969 as a lecturer in Geography at Keswick Hall College of Education, which was later merged with the University of East Anglia, where he worked for 12 years. He took early retirement in 1994 to further his research and writing, becoming a self-employed author, school inspector, adviser and consultant.
David started producing children’s text books in the 1970s. In 1982 David and his wife Jill co-authored First Picture Atlas which was published by Kingfisher Books for Marks and Spencers. The Pocket Atlas, aimed at 9–14 year olds, followed in 1983 and his suite of books includes children’s atlases and 14 other non-fiction books for children as well as books for teachers.
In his career as an author David drew heavily on his travels with Jill. Together they visited more than 100 countries collecting information including 10,000 photographic slides through which they aimed to increase the appeal of the atlases beyond descriptive maps. Travelling around the world with his family in 1987, David taught for a term in Brisbane Teachers’ College and visited numerous countries to collect background material for the new Environment Atlas.
First published in 1987, the Philip’s Children’s Atlas for 7–12 year olds is now in its 12th edition and has sold over a million copies world-wide. Aimed at making the new style of atlas more child friendly than those produced previously by Philip’s, this publication combines clear, accurate maps with fascinating facts about countries and uses their flags and stamps, interesting full colour photographs, (many taken by David himself) and fact boxes to produce an atlas that is fun to use and easy to understand. The Philip’s Children’s Atlas proved especially popular in the United States and was published in Japanese, Norwegian, German and Greek. It was also awarded the Geographical Association’s (GA) award for making a significant contribution to geography, being judged ‘an excellent all round children’s atlas with simple yet well designed maps, well illustrated with colour photographs. It links places to issues, events and real people, giving a clear sense of place.’
David was also the author of Maps with Latitude (GA, 2000) and Mapping our Globe (GA website 2007) as well as 40 published articles on world maps and 100 other articles on geographical education. In 2009, he co-authored the Philip’s Infant School Atlas and the Philip’s Early Years Atlas with his daughter Rachel Noonan, the latter of which is intended for pre-reading children aged between 3 and 5 years.
Throughout his career David was a champion of the use of equal area maps in teaching and in publications of all types and his (W)Right World Map was launched in 2007. He also advocated the use of stamps in engaging young people with an interest in places and examples of a virtual journey using stamps can be found on a new website Discovering the Arctic and on the school resources section of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) website.
Throughout his career David’s concern has been to stimulate children’s interest in the world by creating pupil-orientated approaches to teaching geography and innovative ways of linking geography, environmental and sustainable development education, all rooted in his experiences of many different parts of the world.
David was a past chairman and president of the Norfolk branch of the Geographical Association and his contribution to geographical education was acknowledged in 2007 when he was awarded the accreditation of ‘Chartered Geographer’ by RGS-IBG. In 2008 he was awarded the ‘Ness Award’ by RGS-IBG for his work championing the wider understanding and popularisation of geography through his work with children.
David also included a geographical perspective in his writings about his leisure enthusiasms, writing a book on Christmas hymns with examples from 10 centuries and 10 countries, as well as in articles about his love of steam trains and railways. David is survived by his wife Jill, two children and three grandchildren.