Profile: Charles Good

Charles Good received his BA from the College of New Jersey. Upon graduation he joined the Teachers for East Africa Project (TEA) and taught for two years in a secondary school in Uganda. Supported by a Ford Foundation Fellowship for International Development, he earned his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in cultural geography at the University of Chicago. His doctoral fieldwork in Uganda focused on the development of African markets and trading systems ( Rural Markets and Trade in East Africa, Chicago, 1970). Charles’s interests in health and medical geography grew exponentially after a direct confrontation with the triangle of human ecology: the trade routes he was reconstructing in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo were also highly efficient corridors for the diffusion of infectious diseases, such as endemic / epidemic tick-borne relapsing fever. These field experiences led to a seminar on Population Mobility and Health, taught in 1969 with fellow faculty member James Allen in the Geography Department at California State University-Northridge, where Charles taught from 1966-1971. He subsequently published several essays on the ecology of trade and disease, including a contribution to the seminal Disease in African History (Hartwig Patterson, Eds., Duke, 1978).

In 1971, Charles joined Virginia Tech to lead the development of a new geography department. He spent the next 31 years at VT, introducing Medical Geography in 1975 and offering it annually thereafter. By 1975, Charles’s research in medical geography expanded from disease ecology to health care. He was the first to articulate the need for a comprehensive, geographical investigation of the role of traditional, ethno-based medicine in contemporary African health services ( Social Science Medicine 11, 1977). His NSF-sponsored field study in Kenya led to the publication of Ethnomedical Systems in Africa, Guilford, 1987) and a dozen other articles. In 1986-87, Charles was a Takemi Fellow in International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, when he wrote The Community in African Primary HealthCare, 1988. In 1997, he contracted with USAID for a baseline study of community approaches to STDs and HIV/AIDS in Tanzania. During the 1990s Charles rekindled his interest in the historical geography of colonialism and health. His field and archival research in Malawi, Kenya, and Europe, sponsored by the National Geographical Society and National Science Foundation, culminated in the publication of The Steamer Parish: the Rise and Fall of Missionary Medicine on an AfricanFrontier, Chicago, 2004.

Charles may be contacted at

Updated: Dr Charles Good, Professor Emeritus of Geography, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA Charles’s research interests include ethnomedical systems, HIV/AIDS, historical medical geography, disease ecology, immigrant health, and Africa He was the Senior Editor for Medical Geography with Social Science and Medicine in the mid-1980s