Department of Geography and Planning

Department of Geography and Planning
Department of Geography and Planning
Portrait of Henry Castner.

Henry Castner

Professor Emeritus

Henry Castner arrived in Kingston in 1964 with a new bride, Claire, and a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin under the late Arthur Robinson. Previously he had served at the University of Pittsburg as Teaching Assistant with Richard Edes Harrison of Fortune Magazine fame. At Queen’s, Castner was to teach subjects related to cartography as then known, but also classes in the Geography of the USSR and Physical Geography.  

Twenty-five years later he retired and moved back to the United States having been a part of establishing the Canadian Cartographic Association, a professional society for all with interests in maps and mapping.  At various points he served as President and as Chair of the Interest Group on Map Design.  His teaching included courses on basic cartography, map design, map perception, the history of cartography, and maps in geographic education. The last was supported by a pair of books and a children’s atlas: Seeking New Horizons: A Perceptual Approach to Geography and its sequel Discerning New Horizons, and the atlas Thinking About Ontario. The interest in the USSR was supported by two edited and published volumes by The Wolfe Island Press of Leo Bagrow: The Cartography of Russia up to 1600, and Russian Cartography up to 1800.  

There were other publications in refereed journals on a variety of topics including cartographic communication, tactual mapping, tourist mapping, terrain representation, colour charts, 20th century children’s atlases, electrooculography in cartographic research, and maps in television news as well as, with Gerald McGrath, on the role of the Canadian 1,000,000 topographic map series and an examination of Canadian nautical charts. He was also invited to be their General Consultant to the Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) for their 1981 Atlas of Canada. As part of all this, was his fortune to work with various graduate students, twelve of whom obtained Master’s Degrees and wrote theses; many of them are still active in various careers in cartography and mapping in Canada (6), United States (3) and the United Kingdom (2).

On the international scene, Castner has represented Canada on several committees of the International Cartographic Association, e.g., the Working Group on the History of Cartography, Cartographic Communication, and Children and Cartography. After leaving Canada, Castner served a term as President of the American Cartographic Information Society.

Philosophically, Castner notes that developing activities for school rooms is based simplistically on the old Chinese proverb: I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. More specifically, he has been trying to develop graphic and visual parallels in learning auditory improvisation, a feature of the music education pedagogy of Orff Schulwerk. There, improvisation helps students improve their discrimination skills in listening — an outcome that is obviously beneficial to musicians but to many others as well. Considering that mapping, in its broadest sense, is an improvisational activity, teachers can utilize various activities with graphic images to improve their students’ discrimination skills in looking. An important component of this approach is addressing questions with more than one answer. In such a situation, teachers no longer must be the exclusive masters of lesson content, but become co-investigators and co-discoverers with their students helping them articulate their findings, interpret their analyses, and defend their interpretations. Teachers also play an important role in helping students bridge the gap between empirical or tacit or crystal derived from their observations with the formalized or crystalized knowledge found in their text books, atlases, and from the world-wide web.