Background and education
An Illinoisan by birth, but a "northeasterner by choice and conviction", Zelinsky received his education at University of California, Berkeley, where he was a student of Carl Sauer. He received his doctorate in 1953.
Zelinsky made numerous geographical studies of American popular culture, ranging from the diffusion of classical place-names to spatial patterns of personal given names and to the spatial patterning of religious denominations. One of his most ambitious and imaginative projects was a provocative assessment of the impact of increasingly powerful personal preference on the spatial character of American society.
During the 1960s, along with Gordon DeJong, Warren Robinson, and Paul Baker, Zelinsky helped launch a population research center and coordinate an interdisciplinary graduate instructional program in population studies at Penn State and thus helped lay the foundation for what would become the dual-title Graduate Program in Demography. During 1972–1973 Zelinsky served as the first Director of the Population Issues Research Center (what would become the Population Research Institute at Penn State). 
In 1973, Zelinsky published The Cultural Geography of the United States. In addition to his research in popular culture, Zelinsky made substantial contributions in the fields of "population" and "folk geography".
- Award for Meritorious Contributions to the Field of Geography, presented by the Association of American Geographers (1996).
- The Cullum Geographical Medal by the American Geographical Society in 2001.
- President of the AAG from 1972 to 1973.
- Listing from Geography at Berkeley
-  Notice of death on Department of Geography website, Pennsylvania State University
- Mitchell, Don (2000). Cultural geography: a critical introduction. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 29–33. ISBN 9781557868923. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
- Population Research Institute website http://www.pop.psu.edu/news/2013/zelinsky
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