"Jane Jacobs is variously known as the guru of cities, an urban legend—“part analyst, part activist, part prophet.” In the more than forty years since the publication of her groundbreaking book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), her influence has been extraordinary—not only on architects, community workers, and planners but also on Nobel Prize–winning economists and ecologists. As one critic recently put it, “Jacobs’s influence confirms that books matter. It isn’t easy to cite another writer who has had a comparable impact in our time.” A couple of years ago, she won the top American award for urban planning, the Vincent Scully Prize. This in itself was unusual, not only because she regularly vilifies planners, but also because with the exception of the Order of Canada and a few other prizes, she typically turns down awards—some thirty honorary degrees, including one from Harvard. Jacobs herself wasn’t interested in finishing university—she went to Columbia for just two years."