Born on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pa., Jane Jacobs grew up to become a well-respected urban theorist and writer. Although she had no formal training as an urban planner, Jacobs revolutionized the way we look cities. Her vision was inspired by her time living in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, a mixture of townhouses, walk-up apartment buildings, and narrow streets that all fostered a sense of community.
After working as a reporter and a freelance writer, Jacobs joined the editorial staff of Architectural Forum in 1952. She rallied against the push to modernize urban areas by tearing down established neighborhoods. Her first of many works on the urban environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published in 1961. In it, Jacobs explored what makes a neighborhood vital and how that clashed with contemporary thinking on urban planning. She provided many examples of great neighborhoods, including her own -- New York’s Greenwich Village. In addition to writing, Jacobs also worked on many campaigns to preserve certain neighborhoods. She served on the New York Planning Board for a time.
Married to architect Robert Hyde Jacobs Jr., since 1944, Jacobs and her family relocated to Toronto, Canada, for her husband’s work in 1968. After leaving New York, she focused on her writing and became to expand the scope of her work. Some of her most notable works are Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1989), Systems of Survival (1992) and The Nature of Economies (2000).
In her final book, Dark Age Ahead (2004), Jacobs expressed concern about cultural decay. She died on April 25, 2006, in Toronto, Canada.