Meigs was born in Flushing in New York City. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his B.A. degree in 1925 and a Ph.D. in 1932. He held academic positions at San Francisco State Teachers College (1929), Chico State College (1929-1942), Louisiana State University (1938-1939), American University (1948), and George Washington University (1948).
Beginning during World War II, Meigs was employed primarily by the U.S. government, working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (1942-1944), Joint Intelligence Study Publishing Board (1944-1947), Earth Sciences Division of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps (1949-1953), and Quartermaster Research and Engineering Center (1953-1965).
Meigs published dozens of articles and books. Particularly notable was his early work on Baja California, which was influenced by his Berkeley mentors, Carl O. Sauer in historical geography and Alfred L. Kroeber in ethnography.
He co-authored with Sauer a study of Mission San Fernando Velicatá, the only mission founded by the Franciscans during their brief tenure (1768-1773) on the peninsula. Meigs' doctoral disseration (1932) was a groundbreaking study of the Dominican missions of northwestern Baja California. It was subsequently published and remains the key source on the subject.
During his field trips to northern Baja California, particularly in 1928, 1929, and 1936, Meigs became familiar with the region's surviving Indian groups. He published a monograph on the Kiliwa (1939) that continues to be the most reliable source concerning the aboriginal lifeways of that people. Also included were important notes on the neighboring Paipai and Kumeyaay. After his retirement in 1965, Meigs published several additional articles on the ethnography and archaeology of these groups, based on his notes from his earlier field studies.
LAND OF CHAMISE AND PINES: Historical Accounts and Current Status of Northern Baja California's Vegetation.(Review)
Oct 01, 2000; Richard Minnich has dedicated much of his professional career to the careful study of the vegetation and fire history of Southern...