The new biography on West Chester native William H. Whyte, American Urbanist by Richard K. Rein, is a timely look at the man who reshaped urban life, writes Alexandra Jacobs for The New York Times.
Born in 1917 in West Chester, Whyte was a successful author, urban anthropologist, and filmmaker. In 1956, he wrote and published The Organization Man, the book on corporate culture that sold more than two million copies.
He began his career selling Vicks VapoRub before enlisting in the Marines, where he contributed to the Marine Corps Gazette. He continued working in magazine journalism where he first started challenging the status quo of the collectivist ethic in favor of rugged individualism.
When he was denied a promotion at Fortune, Whyte pivoted to a new career. He befriended the Rockefellers and started considering the issues of conservation and built environments, which led him to become an urbanist.
One of his notable legacies is movable chairs in parks that encourage people to gather into conversational groups of their liking. He also noted that a low proportion of women present in a public space is the main indicator that “things are wrong.”
Read more about the book on West Chester native William H. Whyte in The New York Times.