Chadbourne Gilpatric's career as a Rockefeller Foundation (RF) officer in the humanities and social sciences was characterized by a remarkable intellectual curiosity. From 1949 to 1972, Gilpatric's work for the Foundation took him from New York City to New Delhi and spanned diverse interest areas including urban planning and design, university development, and agricultural education.
Gilpatric was born on November 25, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York. He received his B.S. from Harvard University in 1937 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford from 1938 to 1939. During World War II he served first on the Board of Economic Warfare, and then with the U.S. Army in the Office of Strategic Services. From 1947 to 1949 he was the Deputy Chief of Operations for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Gilpatric's work with the Rockefeller Foundation began in 1949, when he was appointed Assistant Director for the Humanities. He was promoted to Associate Director for the Humanities in 1956, and held this position until 1961. In the late 1950s, Gilpatric played a vital role in the RF's post-World War II efforts to develop the urban design field by helping to facilitate intellectual exchange between influential architects, landscape architects, and city planners. In 1958, he began working closely with Architectural Forum editor Jane Jacobs, regularly soliciting her advice about urban studies grant proposals and potential grantees. Gilpatric also helped secure RF grants for Jacobs's own research and writing about urban design. The resulting book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), was a widely influential critique of postwar urban planning policy.
Gilpatric served briefly as the RF's Deputy Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences in 1962, and then as Associate Director from 1963 to 1968. In 1963 Gilpatric took a one-year leave to become the Honorary Littauer Fellow at Harvard University, where he studied the cultural and civic importance of universities in urban areas. In the following years, this experience would influence his work in the RF field office in New Delhi, India.
Gilpatric's RF assignments in the 1950s and early 1960s required repeated trips to South Asian countries including India and Pakistan. In 1964 Gilpatric moved full time to New Delhi, where he represented Foundation interests in the humanities and social sciences and served as a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Delhi. Between 1964 and 1967, Gilpatric worked to strengthen research, teaching, and libraries at Indian universities. In 1967, he shifted his focus to Indian agricultural education, and directed a study documenting the impact of changing agricultural conditions on small farmers in Uttar Pradesh state. He returned to the United States in 1972 to serve as the RF's Associate Director of Social Sciences, and retired shortly afterwards.
Chadbourne Gilpatric died in 1989 at the age of 74. Gilpatric's officer's diaries are available at the Rockefeller Archive Center.