Skip to Content
Robert Kates

Robert Kates

Presidential Professor of Sustainability Science, University of Maine


  • Presidential Professor of Sustainability Science, University of Maine
  • Sustainability Solutions Initiative Advisory Board Chair, University of Maine
  • Emeritus Member, Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU


Robert Kates passed away on April 21, 2018. He trained as a geographer and taught geography for many years at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. He also participated in interdisciplinary programs addressing both the environment and development at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Clark University, and at the World Hunger Program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Dr. Kates was a Presidential Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Maine, where he chaired the Advisory Board of the Sustainable Solutions Initiative. He formerly served as a senior research associate at Harvard as well as chair of the Coordinating Committee on a Transition Toward Sustainability following the National Academy of Sciences’ report, Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability.

His research was on long-term trends, values, attitudes, and beliefs affecting a sustainability transition, sustainability science, and transformational adaptation to climate change. For examples, see “What is Sustainable Development? Goals, Indicators, Values, and Practice” (Kates et al., 2005), “What Kind of a Science is Sustainability Science? (Kates, 2012), and “Transformational Adaptation: When Incremental Adaptations to Climate Change are Insufficient” (Kates et al., 2012).

He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1991, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his work on hunger, environment, and natural hazards.


  • MA, Geography, University of Chicago
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Maine
  • PhD, Geography, University of Chicago
  • Honorary Doctorate, Clark University