University of Wisconsin–Madison

William M. Denevan

Carl O. Sauer Professor Emeritus


Ph.D. Geography, University of California, Berkeley, 1963

Research Areas

Historical ecology, Latin America, especially Amazonia; Indian demography; human impacts on the environment; pre-European cultivation

Recent Publications

Recent Book

To Pass on Good Earth: The Life and Works of Carl O. Saur (co-author/co-editor), 2014

Recent Journal Articles

"After 1942: Nature Rebounds," Geographical Review, 2016

"The Domestication of Amazonia Before European Conquest," co-author, Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biology, 2015.

"Estimating Amazonian Indian Numbers in 1492," Journal of Latin American Geography, 2014.

"Population Estimates for Anthropogenically Enriched Soils (Amazonian Dark Earths)," co-author, in Soils, Climate, and Society, University of Colorado Press, 2013.

Awards and Honors

Honors include American Association of Geographers; Guggenheim Fellow; American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow; Arch Gerlach Prize for 2001-2005: Pan American Institute for Geography and History.

Other Activities


In July 2015, Bill and his brother Dave visited the 1880 homestead site of their great grandfather Edward Denevan's family including grandfather Leo, near De Smet, SD. They found the remains of the original board house and barn, well, a wagon wheel, root/tornado cellar, and possible original cottonwood trees. The Charles Ingalls family claimed a homestead a few miles away the year before. Both families survived the terrible winter of 1880-1881 when many settlers died of starvation or froze to death. See "The Long Winter" and "Little Town on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

June, 2015: Bill writes that he recently published - To Pass on a Good Earth: The Life and Work of Carl O. Sauer, by Michael Williams, with David Lowenthal and William M. Denevan, University of Virginia Press, 2014.

The late Michael Williams, Oxford University, was a visiting professor in the department in the 1980s. Lowenthal, professor emeritus at University College London, did graduate work and was a T.A. in Geography and received his Ph.D. in History at UW in 1954. Denevan is professor emeritus in the department, on the faculty from 1963 to 1994. Sauer was a visiting professor in 1966.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
PO Box 853, Gualala, CA 95445

Phone: (707) 785-2597