A Los Angeles native, Richard Morrill discovered the discipline of Geography as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, excited by the quality of an introductory course taught by Trevor Lloyd. Having grown up in 15 to 20 different houses across Los Angeles, Morrill became interested in water-power development as an undergraduate student in geography.
Morrill came to the UW as a graduate student in 1955. Working under the mentorship of Professor William Garrison, Morrill and his colleagues were the first to apply quantitative methods and early computing technology to the study of geography, including mapping and spatial analysis. Using these high-tech tools, Morrill developed regional simulation to model and track the movement of goods and people over space and time.
Morrill also became a pioneer in the analysis of social and political geography. His work on redistricting and gerrymandering made him an export worthy of testifying before the Supreme Court in this area. His examinations of space and politics led Morrill to become one of the first geographers to specialize in social inequality, authoring groundbreaking studies of geographies of poverty and inequality in the urban landscape.
Throughout his career, Morrill remained at the forefront of innovations in his field. He has authored seven books, including the influential locational analysis textbook, The Spatial Organization of Society, and more than one hundred articles, book chapters, and essays. He also taught thousands of UW students, offering some of the first courses in the US in social geography, on inequality, and on mathematical models of location and movement.