Norman Thrower, a leader in the interconnected fields of geography and cartography and professor emeritus of geography at UCLA, a passionate world traveler and cartographer died Sept. 2 at his home in Pacific Palisades. He was 100.
Among the many organizations to which Thrower belonged was the California Map Society, for which he served as the group’s inaugural president. He produced numerous publications, notably “Man's Domain: A Thematic Atlas of the World, 1968” and “Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society, 1996.”
Thrower joined UCLA in 1957 after earning a doctorate in geography and minor in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin. From 1980 through 1987 he served as director of the UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and from 1984–1987 he served as acting director of UCLA's Center for Seventeenth-and Eighteenth Century Studies.
Retirement from teaching in 1990 didn’t slow down his passion for sharing and understanding the world by way of its topography and the humans who navigate it. In 1996, Thrower received the Constantine Panunzio Award for being the most productive emeritus professor among the entire University of California system.
Born Oct. 23, 1919, in Crowthorne, England, Thrower originally attended art school at Reading University. His art training was interrupted by World War II, when at the age of 21 he joined the British army and his artillery unit served in India.
His art skills made him a prime candidate to join the Survey of India, where he trained as a cartographer and honed his abilities by making topographic maps to support the war effort. After the war he returned to England where he made maps for the Directorate of Colonial Surveys. It was there he met his wife, Betty, who was stationed in England with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. They married in England in 1947 and moved to the United States the same year. Norman received his bachelor’s in geography from the University of Virginia in 1953.
Thrower was a sought-after curator of events and programs related to the history of world travel.
In 1975, he was appointed by California Gov. Ronald Reagan to the Sir Frances Drake Commission to make preparations for the 400th celebration of Drake’s circumnavigation of the Earth. He met Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Edward Heath and other dignitaries.
From 1989–1993 he served as head of the Columbus Quintenary programs. In this position Thrower met with Queen Sophia of Spain and received an award from King Juan Carlos I for service to the country.
Thrower and Betty, his wife of 50 years who preceded him in death, traveled extensively worldwide during the course of his career, including Western Europe, Japan, Australia, most of the United States and more.
He is survived by three children, Page Mosier (and husband, Dan), Anne Leonard, and Mary Kerr (and husband, Bob), as well as five granddaughters, Jennifer Mosier, Alexis and Adrienne Leonard, and Elizabeth and Anna Kerr.