A Science of Cities has been a long time coming, but it is beginning. You can go back to the time of Newton to sense its origins and there is little doubt that Leonardo thought a little about how we might construe such a science. And if Leonardo knew about it, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Greeks had ideas about it.
In fact one of my favourite quotes is reproduced in the frontispiece of Jane Jacobs (1969) book The Economy of Cities (Random House, NY), and it is from Herodotus’s The Histories. He says:
“I will tell the story as I go along of small cities no less than of great. Most of those that were great once are small today; and those that in my own lifetime have grown to greatness, were small enough in the old days”.
Those who have seen the movie or read the book The English Patient will be moved by the evocation inspired by Herodotus’s Histories conjuring up pictures of sand cities in the North African Desert. As you will see on this website, some of our work attempts to explain why cities are the size they are which is a very hot issue as we move to a world “When All the World’s a City”.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. In the 19th century, commentators on cities and their economy began to figure out why activities located where they did and this lead ultimately to ‘location theory’ and thence by the mid-20th century to urban economics. A healthy dash of social physics gave the field a more empiricist slant with the idea of gravitation being widely used to simulate flows of people. Transportation came onto the agenda in the 1950-1960s and at last, people began to think of the city as a system.
The experience was salutary. This was the beginning and it has taken the last 50 years for us to appreciate that the only way we will grapple with this type of complexity is through a science fashioned to take account of the fact that we will never be able to validate it in the same way as those isolated physical systems that pioneered classical science in the time of Newton.
The challenge is even greater because cities are getting more complex as they evolve. In this web site, I will develop as many ideas as I can and point you to this new world in as thorough a manner as I can, as well as indulging of course my own work which I will unashamedly publicise through this site.