Obituary: Daniel B. Luten, Jr.
19 March 2003
Daniel Luten, lecturer in geography from 1962 to 1974, died Jan. 18 in Berkeley at the age of 94.
Luten, who earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley in 1933, was a successful chemist with Shell Development before assuming an academic position at age 54. He referred to his university retirement at age 66 with considerable contempt as “merely mandatory senility” and continued on, providing his scientific expertise and immense personal energy to a variety of local and national conservation efforts for another quarter century.
Luten regularly taught a course on “Population, Environment, and Development” as well as lecturing on energy and other topics. He stressed environmental limits to progress when cultural determinism was closer to the norm. There is an annual contest in Luten’s name for the best paper presented on energy and the environment at the meetings of the American Association of Geographers.
Luten sustained the links between the Berkeley campus and the West Coast environmental movement that date back more than a century, to when Joseph LeConte was instrumental in the startup of both the University of California and the Sierra Club. When he served on the Club’s Board of Directors, Luten argued that conservationists, until then primarily concerned with wildland preservation, needed also to grapple with population issues. His persuasive articles, with pithy titles like “How Dense Can People Be,” did much to attract new members to the environmental movement. He also served as president of Friends of the Earth as well as on numerous local boards and advisory commissions.
Luten is survived by his wife, Marion Sherk of Berkeley; by three children by his late wife Lois L. Luten (son Tom and daughter-in-law Susan Burnett Luten of Berkeley, son Robert Luten of San Jose, and daughter Margaret Luten Feuillard of Pleasant Hill); one grandson, and one great-grandson. Gifts in his memory may be made to The Nature Conservancy.
— Richard B. Norgaard,
Energy and Resources Group