Alexander Von Humboldt:
Humboldt was a versatile genius and travelled extensively. He studied temperature of air and ground, pressure, winds, latitudes, longitudes, elevations above the sea level, magnetic vibrations, nature of rocks, types of plants and their relations to climate, altitude and human attitudes.
He published his first paper in 1793. He established a positive relationship between the forests and rainfall.
He gave a scientific explanation of corps and the influence of altitude, temperature and vegetation on crops. He gave a classic description of the vertical zones of the northern Andes. He explained the feeling of dizziness experienced while climbing up the hill as a result of low air pressure. He observed and recorded the cold water current at Peru for the first time. He put forward the idea of digging a canal across the Panama Isthmus.
In 1829, he was invited by the Czar to explore Siberian land where he kept a regular record of temperature and pressure. Many meteorological stations were set up by him. A world map showing isotherms was prepared for the first time. He established the concept of sentimentality. He coined the term permafrost to explain the frozen characteristic of the Siberian soils.
The word climatology appeared, dealing with all the variations of atmosphere—temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, winds, atmospheric purity and the degree of visibility.
In 1845, he published Kosmos which was geographical in the description of earth as it dealt with the interrelationship of phenomena that exist together in an area. He believed in the inductive method and emphasised the importance of empirical method of research. He made a comparative study of the different geographical regions.
He gave importance to the geographical regions. He gave importance to the geographical representation of data on maps and the utility of maps for geographical studies. He believed in the unity of nature.
He also believed in a common origin of all human races. His approach included theory building and model making. He attempted to develop a general picture of the distribution of average temperature in the world in relation to the distribution of continents and oceans.
He also studied the influence of altitude on plants, animals and human life. He focussed primarily, though not exclusively, on physical features, climate and vegetation. Thus he is considered as the founder of plant-geography and climatology as well as the founder of the modern geography.
Ritter is known as one of the founders of modern geographical thought. He believed in empirical research. He was a teleologist and a firm believer in God. He had a vision of an ordered and harmonious universe. In 1807, he met Alexander Von Humboldt for the first time and was impressed by his versatility in observations of natural and human phenomena in different parts of the world. Ritter occupied the first chair of geography in the University of Berlin. He emphasised that geography deals with man-nature inter-relationships.
He developed the concept of Unity in Diversity. He declared geography as Erdlande, or earth science which deals with local conditions and embraces the attributes of a place with respect to topical, formal and material characteristics. The first attribute was topographical i.e. it deals with the natural divisions of the earth surface. The second included the distribution and movement of water, sea, atmosphere and the base of human life.
The material conditions were described as the geographical aspect of natural history covering the distribution of minerals, plants and animals. He claimed that the central principle of geography is the relation of phenomena and forms of nature to the human race. According to him, geography deals with the globe in all its features, phenomena and relations as an independent unit and shows the connection of this unified whole with man and with man’s creator.
The Concept of Unity in Diversity:
Ritter says that there is a fundamental unity in the biotic and abiotic components which sculptures man’s cultural environment.
In such an approach, all the physical and cultural components of environment are taken into consideration and their inter-relationship is established in understanding the geography of an aerial unit. This is a regional approach.
It means that every naturally bounded area is in unity in respect of climate, production, culture, population and history. Ritter’s method is said to be deductive, because it deduces new conclusions from the fundamental assumptions or from the truth established by other methods.
Stimulating Ideas Introduced by Ritter:
Ritter stressed the idea of land and water hemispheres, the distinction between the rates of heating and cooling of land and water, the difference between the northern and southern hemispheres in their proportion to land and water, etc.
He differentiated between the coastlines of the three continents i.e. Africa, Asia and Europe and also between the contacts of the interior land with the sea. He identified each continent with human race, for example, Africa with blacks, Europe with whites, Asia with yellow people and America with red people. This was considered an over-generalisation.
Erdkunde is a German term which stands for science of the earth in relation to nature and history. Ritter stated that earth and its inhabitants stand in the closest reciprocal relations and one cannot be truly presented in all its relationships without the other. Hence history and geography must always remains inseparable. He believed that land influences the inhabitants and, in turn, the inhabitants transform the landscape.
Ritter’s Major Geographical Concepts:
Hitter’s major concepts are as follows:
1. He conceived geography as an empirical science rather than one based on deduction from rational principles or a priori theory.
2. Aerial phenomena are so inter-related as to give rise to the uniqueness of the areas as individual units.
3. According to him, geography was concerned with objects on the earth as they exist together in an area. He studied areas in their totality.
4. He held a holistic view with respect to the content and purpose of geographic study and the whole study was focused on man and culminated in man.
5. He was teleological in approach and believed that God had made the earth to suit the needs of man perfectly.