Here is a list of six most popular geographers of Germany, who in the late nineteenth century made significant contribution to systematic studies, both in physical geography and human geography.
Geographer # 1. Oscar Peschel:
Oscar Peschel initiated a movement which sought to give the contemporary German geography a new outlook, orientation and dimension that was opposed to the geographic heritage founded by Humboldt and Ritter. Peschel was the first great geographer in Germany before the full impact of Darwinism was felt; and although he worked after the enunciation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, its implications in the interpretation of Earth features and human societies were not yet recognised.
To Peschel, geography was to be a systematic, empirical science, its method, observation, drawing induction from those observations, and correcting these by still new observations. His enormous respect for natural law led him to attempt causal classification of the relief features of the Earth’s surface.
At the age of 45, Peschel was appointed as the professor of geography at Leipzig in 1871. His book on the history of geography ‘Geschichte der Erdkunde’ was published in 1865 and that created a stir in the contemporary academic circles of Germany.
In his studies of the history of geography, Peschel attempted to use the term ‘Vergleichend’ to designate the method of investigation which compared all forms of one particular relief type with one another, so that by recognising intermediate stages one could arrive at an understanding of their mode of formation.
He studied the much-indented forded coasts which he found on the western sides of continents in higher middle latitudes. He offered the hypothesis that the fjords were fissures in the Earth’s crust that had been occupied and gouged out of glaciers. The causality Peschel sought was purely mechanical; it had nothing to do with purpose.
His systematic studies of fjords together with lakes, islands, valleys and mountains were published in 1870 in Neue Problem der vergleichenden Erdkunde als Versuch einer Morphologie der Erdoberflache. In this work, Peschel attempted to imbue the scientific spirit into geography.
Through this work, he led geographers to study primarily the morphology of landforms. The scientific morphology, the idea he developed in his two volumes of papers, entitled ‘Physische Erdkunde’ was given its foundations by geographers who had been trained as geologists.
His geographical work was not only simply confined to the study of the morphology of land forms but, on the contrary, he was concerned also with the study of the influence of landforms on human history. In his systematic studies, Peschel appeared to have concentrated more on the Earth’s physical features and did not treat the elements of human geography in a similar systematic manner.
His morphological research created an academic stir in physical geography of contemporary Germany. Interest was moved from ‘Landerkunde’ and tended to focus on systematic studies in a manner reminiscent of Humboldt, though there was no revival of Humboldt’s broad interest in all aspects of physical geography nor of his idealistic stressing of the unity of nature.
Systematic studies in their new guise were highly specialised, and prosecuted by scientists who tended to be geomorphologists and climatologists first and geographers only secondly. Peschel’s genetic classification of relief types provided the concept from which the formulation of geomorphology could and did proceed.
He seemed to have recognised the dualism in geography. Peschel excluded the study of man from it, but devoted his scientific energies and his teaching to both. He made outstanding contributions to the study of the science of physical features of the Earth’s surface and also made serious investigations of the races and cultures of humankind, which he, like his contemporaries, defined as Volkerkunde.
His early death, at the age of 49, caused irreparable loss to the emerging ‘new geography’ in Germany, as it cut his work short just at the time when his university position would have enabled him to be most productive.
Geographer # 2. Ferdinand Von Richthofen:
Ferdinand von Richthofen was one of the forerunners of ‘new geography’ in Germany vis- a-vis Europe as he carried forward the scientific spirit which was imbued in the contemporary geography by Oscar Peschel. Richthofen was an experienced field observer.
He began his researches in the Alps and then carried on geological studies in the Carpathians. He studied the granites and dolomites in the south Tyrol, and interpreted the latter as coral formations. This view was later used by Albrecht Penck in his studies of Alpine geology.
In I860, he was selected to undertake an expedition to eastern Asia for the study of land resources. After working in China, he sailed across the pacific to California, where he spent six years in active geological studies. He showed interest in the nature of the relations between volcanic rocks and the occurrence of gold which he studied in Hungary. He reported from San Francisco on the famous Comstock lode.
For some time he worked as a journalist providing information about the gold resources of California. Later, he was financed by the Bank of California and the Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai to provide information about the economic conditions of China, especially the occurrence of coal. In his subsequent survey of China, he was the first to report and map the Chinese coal fields. He is credited to have discovered the major resources of China.
Richthofen is known for his valuable work on China which was published in five volumes, between 1875 and 1912. The work also contained a large atlas of China. The work on China was a landmark in the contemporary geographical literature.
It is based on his personal experience and observation, and as such it is a representation of the Humboldtian tradition. The work deals with the structure and the physiography of the mountains of central Asia and their influence on the outward migration of peoples.
Richthofen recognises the loess deposits of northern China as wind-blown dusts from the steppe. He also noted that in this part of Asia the loess, and also the stratified rocks, were deposited over a relatively level or gently rolling surface and this more-or-less level surface cuts across ancient rocks of varying degrees of resistance to erosion. He believed that the only force strong enough to erode such resistant rocks must be the ocean.
Richthofen also discussed the geology and landform of North China. He provided information, based on his observation, about the economic and social activities of the people of North China. He provided a detailed account of the land and people of South China.
However, he did much more than locating minerals and fuels. His generalisations on land/human relationships, particularly in the context of China, were primarily based on the empirically observed facts, and he attempted to identify the reciprocal relationship between the physical and the non- physical phenomena.
For a brief period, Richthofen was appointed in the University of Berlin by the Prussian government in 1875, but in 1877 he became a professor of geography in the University of Bonn. He moved to Leipzig as Professor of Geography in 1883, where the chair had fallen vacant after the death of the first professor of geography, Oscar Peschel, in 1875. In 1886, Richthofen moved to a new chair in physical geography in Berlin. It was long before he found his due place in the Akademic der Wissencheften in Berlin, but his personality and abilities gradually prevailed.
He raised questions in his lectures that had never been touched in the circles of the university. His pronouncements on the geography of settlement and transport were published posthumously. His Kolloquium had a number of pupils who later became distinguished in their fields of research.
Richthofen’s Fuhrer fur Forschungsreisende (1886), as a guide to scientific explorers, was morphology of the Earth’s surface feature. It was a masterpiece in the field of physical geography. The first part of the book deals with the techniques of field observation, especially in its relevance to physical geography and geology. The second part provides a systematic interpretation of the processes involved in the shaping of the surface of the Earth.
In this part, the landforms are classified in terms of the processes. The third part deals with observation of the soils, rocks and mountain structure. The landforms are classified as to type under the headings of the various processes. The differential development of a river system and the associated kinds of relief are examined in areas of unconsolidated strata, horizontal strata, and abrasional surfaces.
Also, in relation to processes involved (endogenetic and exogenetic processes and deposition), lakes, coasts and islands are classified accordingly. In the book, Richthofen attempts to distinguish between mountain and lowland with suitable criteria. He also distinguishes between the mountain ridges and mountain masses.
Mountain ridges have long axes, while the mountain masses do not have such a form. It appears better to use the genetic factor and to subdivide mountains into types according to the basic forces in the development of their outer forms.
Richthofen would be long remembered for his pioneering statement on the scope and method of geography which came to be regarded as the programmatical statement of modern German geography. In his inaugural address at the University of Leipzig in 1883, he took over Marthes’ chorological conception and made it a fundamental basis of his concept of geography.
In this address, Richthofen proved himself to be the actual one to inherit and carry forward the ideas of Humboldt and Ritter, and also, in a consistent sense, to fulfill Peschel’s research. In contrast with the latter, he had the sound, unprejudiced historical sense to fit himself into the course of development and to determine his position exactly.
To him, geography is the science of the Earth’s surface and the things and phenomena that are causally interrelated with it. It is not Earth Science (Erdkunde). For this would be comprehensive. Its methods are measurement and observation of phenomena in the field.
Geography may be pursued through the most detailed investigation of the smallest areas, and through comparative study of larger areas. The distinctive purpose of geography is to focus attention on the diverse phenomena that occur in interrelation on the face of the Earth.
To reach useful and reliable conclusion, a geographical study of any part on the face of the Earth must begin with a careful description of the physical features and then must move on to an examination of the relationships of other features of the Earth’s surface to the basic physical framework.
He distinguishes the study of the processes creating the surface features (geology) from the description of the surface features themselves as the frame of reference to which other elements on the face of the Earth (including the works of humans) are to be related.
The highest goal of geography is the exploration of the relationship of humans to the physical Earth and to the biotic features that are related with the physical features. This became the basic pattern for geographical studies, not only in Germany, but also in other parts of the world.
Richthofen attempted to distinguish between the ‘general geography’ and ‘special geography’. General geography studies earth-bound phenomena on a four-fold base the forms; the material; forces and causes of change; and movement. These four points of view lead to the morphologically material, dynamic and genetic modes of approach. General geography is not progressive.
It is rather regressive; since it passes from the particular to the general, from the condition to the cause. It is analytical. Richthofen was very much concerned by the contemporary problem of geographical methodology – ‘should geography be concerned only to describe the unique features of particular regions or should it concern with the formulation of generalisations or theory’? He attempted to simplify the problem without being controversial.
Special geography is primarily descriptive and synthetic. ‘Every area on the Earth’, says Richthofen, ‘no matter how large or small, whether a continent, a small island, or a naturally bounded inland area, an artificially bounded state, a mountain, a river basin or a sea, is examined as a grouping of smaller unit areas, as well as in the perceptible appearances, among which are included the works of human culture’. To him, the essential observation on which any framework of concepts must be built had to be made in the field in particular areas where the features are unique.
There may be two approaches to the descriptive, synthetic or special geography – chorography and chorology. Chorography does not go beyond the systematic assembly of all the appearances of the individual land areas. The chorological approach is made possible by the advancement of various contributing sciences.
It is concerned not only with registering the areal facts that are there, it also attempts to explain the areal distribution of these phenomena through the introduction of causative and dynamic interrelationships of the phenomena on every single portion of the Earth’s surface.
This approach has been facilitated, since Ritter’s time, by the growth of the special disciplines that deal with the explanation of the spatial distribution of particular sets of phenomena. This leads to the field of general geography. The more deeply a study goes into process rather than distribution, the less is its use to a chorological treatment of a particular area.
Thus, Richthofen attempted to distinguish between chorography (which is non-explanatory description, providing material for systematic geography), and chorology, a final step, the explanatory study of regions, based on systematic geography.
The actual purpose of systematic geography is to lead to an understanding of the causal relations of phenomena in areas, an understanding which may be expressed in principles that can be applied in the interpretation of individual region, chorology or regional study. Regional study first must be distinctive, but it must also go beyond the description of unique features to seek regularities of occurrence and to formulate hypotheses that explain the observed characteristics.
Richthofen attempted to revive the concept of unity of the Earth’s surface and to bring the analytical approach into a closer relationship with chorological study. To him, geography attempts to link the problems of the various sciences in a unity, the basis of which is the Earth’s surface and the things and phenomena a really arranged on it. Though Richthofen set the guidelines for the systematic study of the Earth’s physical features, but he also put emphasis on the geography of humans.
This was concerned with the distribution of races and tribes, peoples and nations, languages and religions. He felt the need to develop what he called the dynamic anthropogeography which would aim at the understanding of the influence of the nature of lands on Humans, and the influence of Humans on the transformation of the nature of lands. He favoured the application of a genetic approach to deal with the study of human because it is concerned with the relation of human to the natural environment.
Richthofen seemed to have felt the need to begin the geographical study based on observation from the smallest segments of the Earth’s surface. For it would be rather easier to describe the unique features of the units, and at the same time, might help the formulation of generalisation or theory.
He distinguished the different methods of study in areas of different size (which he termed the order of decreasing size), the major divisions of the Earth, major regions, landscapes or small regions and localities. It has been rightly observed that Richthofen followed the precedent of Humboldt, attempted to revive the close connection of geography to the natural sciences, and at the same time restored the Ritterian tradition and sought to fulfil the methodology of Peschel. He was probably the greatest and most effective contributor to the development of modern geography.
Geographer # 3. Friedrich Ratzel:
Modern geography’s first encounter with structural explanation began with a debate between Friedrich Ratzel and Emile Durkheim at the end of the nineteenth century. Durkheim attempted to assimilate human geography to his own conception of morphologie sociale while Ratzel provided the guidelines for a comparative systematic study of human geography (or to use the word he introduced, anthropogeographie). This reflects Ratzel’s background in the natural sciences, particularly zoology.
It suggests the geography of humans in terms of individuals and races— anthropological geography. The major objects of Ratzel’s concern were the works of human, particularly the products of human’s social life in relation to the Earth. He was the greatest single contributor to the development of the geography of human. He made significant contributions to ethnography that is today highly esteemed by cultural anthropologists.
He came to geography from a quite different background. He did his graduation at Heidelburg in 1868, working in zoology, geology and comparative anatomy. Ratzel appears to have been much influenced by two of Datwin’s major themes – ‘struggle and natural selection’, and ‘association and organisation’. His major works thus demonstrated that cultural as well as natural phenomena could be subjected to systematic studies.
He published in 1869 a commentary on Darwin’s work that showed strongly the influence of Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, the famous Jena zoologist. His dissertation especially dealt with the significance of Darwin’s ideas. Like his predecessors, Ratzel also felt that generalisations must be drawn on the basis of the empirically observed facts. Thus, he was basically interested in the observation of plants and animals out-of-door than in laboratory studies.
In 1869, he went on a trip to the countries around the Mediterranean. He came in contact with a French naturalist with whom he visited the area and learnt much about the bio-diversity of the region. He showed keen interest to write popular accounts about the people of German origin living outside Germany, especially the way they lived and made use of resources.
After the Franco-Prussian war, Ratzel resumed study at the Munich University for a brief period. Here he met Moritz Wagner, the noted naturalist and ethnographer, who introduced him to his theories of the importance of the migration of species. Many of his writings were subsequently published in a book, Travels of a Naturalist.
Ratzel had the opportunity to visit the United States and Mexico in 1874-75. This American experience appeared to have made a deep life-long impression on him and was the source of many of his ideas. He attempted to compare the way of living of the German living in Eastern Europe whom he visited earlier and the German living in the middle-west and south-west of America. He was impressed to see the ways in which the German in America had been making use of the local resources. He was sad to see the deteriorating condition of the minorities in California.
He began to formulate some generalisations about the ‘genre de vie’ (way of living) of different communities, especially about the geographical pattern resulting from ‘the westward expansion of the American Frontier’. These generalisations were based on his observation and travels. He recognised and described examples of the destructive use of land, which, he hoped was a characteristic of land settlement at an early stage and would be remedied as settlement progressed and matured.
He published a book on Chinese emigration in 1876, especially that which occurred in California. Later in 1878 and 1880, he published two volumes on the United States (Physical and Cultural Geography with Reference to Economic Condition).
In 1893, he wrote another book on the United States, in which he described the contemporary political conditions with special reference to natural and economic conditions of the States. It was this experience in the interpretation of an extensive region in 1874-75 that turned his attention specifically towards the study of geography.
Ratzel is often described to have broken from what he called the integrative morphological approach of Humboldt, who was concerned with the interdependence rather than the origins and spread of things and ideas over the Earth. Through his biological approach, Ratzel also departed from Ritter’s much criticised approach to geography, but he was far more sympathetic towards it than such contemporaries as Peschel.
Ratzel was critical of the mechanistic evolutionary approach of both Darwin and Haeckel, yet the influence of their works was profound on his writings. In his later years, he became increasingly influenced by philosophical rather than biological thinking.
It was in Munich that Ratzel first began to publish his ideas concerning the study of systematic human geography. The first volume of his main work was published in 1882. It was entitled Anthropogeographie, or Outline of the Influences of the Geographical Environment upon History. In this volume, Ratzel attempted to develop the new method of natural science within human geography; he stressed on the extent to which humans live under nature’s laws.
He regarded cultural forms as having Ratzel saw humans as the end-product of evolution, an evolution in which the mainspring was the natural selection of types, according to their capacity to adjust themselves to the physical environment.
Thus, whereas Ritter wrote of the reciprocal relation of human and nature, a relationship which was part of a harmonious whole serving the creative purpose of God, Ratzel tended to see humans as the product of his environment, moulded by the physical forces that surrounded him, and succeeding only in so far as he made the correct adjustment to their demands.
The ultimate purpose of these adjustments, if any, lay outside the core of his inquiry. It must be recognised that Ratzel initiated new ground in demonstrating that cultural and natural phenomena could be subjected to systematic study. Before his time, human geography had largely confined itself to regional studies.
However, in Germany itself some of his contemporaries, notably Kirchhoff, held the opposite approach to the study of human geography. Instead of describing the influence of the physical Earth on human affairs, Kirchhoff attempted to focus attention on human himself. He studied human geography by the reverse method— by considering human condition in relation to natural condition.
He gave more attention to the culture of human groups than to the physical aspects of the Earth. This was the approach Ratzel adopted in his second volume of Anthropogeographie which was published in 1891. The first volume was a reworking of the theme developed by Ritter in his Erdkunde, and Ratzel himself stressed the fact that he was developing the ideas of Ritter in conformity with the newly established scientific method.
The modified second volume of Anthropogeographie (1891) attempted to discuss the concentration and distribution of population, settlement forms, migration and the diffusion of cultural characteristics. Ratzel did not merely explain phenomena in human geography in terms of natural conditions, but also stressed the significance of the historical development and cultural background of population. But many of his followers, and Ellen Churchill Semple in particular, laid great significance on the deterministic opinions of Ratzel.
In scientific circles, the first volume of Anthropogeographie had much greater impact than the second volume. The second volume appears to have attempted to revive the Kantian concept of the chorological science which ‘studies things that are mutually coordinated, not subordinated in space’.
Dickinson has remarked that the first volume (1882) appears to treat the cause of human distributions and refers to the dynamic aspect of geography, and the second volume seems to deal with the facts of distribution which reflects the static aspect of geography.
The first volume is an application of geography to history, and the second the geographical distribution of man. Implied in Anthropogeographie (vols I and II) are the influences of the Darwinian concepts of struggle and survival which emphasised on the method of natural sciences, or more precisely the hypothetical-deductive method that sought prime causes by deduction.
The reaction against too much orientation towards environmental determinism (as implicit in his second volume of Anthropogeographie) prompted him to clarify that cultural differences were far more pronounced than differences in the physical character of the land.
He pointed out the great contrast in the way people make use of the land in two places that are physically very much alike. He attempted to give emphasis on the genre de vie of the people. He observed the contrast between the French and the German cultural traditions in the physical resemblance between the two places of the low mountain regions on either side of the middle Rhine Valley.
Ratzel is also called the ‘founder’ of political geography and is often recognised as the father of modern political geography. Undoubtedly, it was he who brought a radical change in political geographical thinking. Although following logically after Ritter, he represented a break with the largely impressionistic writings of the past by concentrating on the growth of political entities as living organisms and by evolving, through an organic analogue model, a set of laws by which he attempted to explain the processes of the spatial growth of states.
In 1897, Ratzel published his work on political geography. This reshaped the old topic along lines conformable with the principles he had introduced in his Anthropogeographie. He discusses the state as an organism attached to the land, a piece of humanity and a piece of Earth.
Ratzel, like many other scholars of his time, was greatly influenced with the ideas of Herbert Spencer regarding the similarity of human societies to animal organisms. He attempted to show that a state, like some simple organisms, must either grow or die and can never stand still. When a state extends its borders at the expense of another state, there is a reflection of internal strength. Strong states must have room to grow in order to survive.
Every state is a piece of humanity and a portion of the Earth. Out of this develops the concept of living space (lebensraum). He contended that the superior people must have the right to enlarge their living space at the expense of inferior neighbours. Ratzel appears to have believed in what may be called ‘racial superiority’. This was in marked contrast to Humboldt’s assertion that ‘all races of man had a common origin and that no race was necessarily inferior to the other’.
Although Ratzel derived this organism analogy from the natural sciences, its roots may also be traced in the earlier idealist philosophy and the idea of ganzheit or ‘whole’ as used by Ritter. Ratzel also appears to have adopted Ritter’s notion of evolution from youth to maturity as a correlation between growing old age and diminishing size.
He, like Ritter, attempted to comprehend’ the Earth as an integral whole, an interacting unity. But his works differed in two important respects from Ritter’s. He treated Human Geography systematically and from a Darwinian point of view. His last great work attempts to present the interrelation of the phenomena of the Earth’s surface.
Ratzel’s attempt in Anthropogeographie (1882 and 1891) and Politisctic Geographie (1897) to change geography from an inventory to an explanatory science invited a reduction of geography to social morphology. The only difficulty one could see in this was that Ratzel had provided two conceptions of geography, and only one of them was admissible.
At times, he clearly seemed to propose as the object of political geography, the settlement forms assumed by societies on the surface of the Earth, and this, properly speaking, is social morphology. Sometimes, he assigns it the goal of establishing the effects of physiographical features on the political development of these peoples.
However, Durkheim regarded the first of these as the concern of any properly constituted social science, whereas the second accorded primacy to what he always insisted were entirely environmental constraints.
Ratzel’s systematic studies of human geography led him to discard a number of ancient concepts. He seems to have provided an opposite view with regard to various stages of human’s use of the land, a view that continued to be accepted since the time of Dicoearchus. His criticism of the concept of stages was recognised by Edward Hahn, who in 1892, prepared a new map of economic systems of the world, based on Ratzel’s viewpoint.
Dickinson points out that Ratzel’s concept of geography seems to be based on two approaches— the measurement of the consistent interrelation of environment and humans, and the measurement of the interrelation of human phenomena over the Earth that is a really coincident.
The former focuses on relationships while the latter is concerned with the coincidence, correlations, and interrelations of distribution. He also focused attention on a third aspect—the visible human- land landscape.
In the contemporary German geographical scholarship and thinking, there was a tendency to overstress the physical aspects of geography, but it was Ratzel who attempted to establish a balance that equal importance is given to both physical geography and human geography. But it was the period when dualism in geography acquired a professional dimension.
The question was – are the concepts and methods of physical geography so utterly different from those of human geography that these two branches cannot be properly included in a single discipline? However, it cannot be disputed that Ratzel, who attempted to incorporate the Darwinian themes into geography, tried to give the discipline a new paradigm, based on hypothetical-deductive method, which set in a new horizon in the contemporary geography not only in Europe, but also in North America.
Ratzel had attempted to rescue the study of humans from its earlier subordinate position as a part of Landerkunde, but he had not thereby affected the dualism in geography. Indeed, his work served to fix interest still more firmly on systematic studies, and regional geography continued to receive scant attention.
Geographer # 4. Georg Gerald:
It was at the time when Ratzel’s systematic but scientific human geography had been making inroads into the contemporary German geographical thinking, that Georg Gerald (1833— 1919) came out with a different argument which tended to focus on the study of the physical aspects of the Earth. He was professor of geography at Strassbourg from 1875 until his retirement in 1910. He attempted to develop the views of Kant and Peschel in an effort to develop geography as an exact science.
He favoured the complete exclusion of humans from the field of geography. He maintained that geography should be exactly what the word Erkunde implied—study of the whole Earth without reference to humans. He concluded that physical sciences could formulate exact laws, but no such laws could ever be formulated which could account for the behaviour of human groups.
To him, the Earth was like millions of other units in the universe, a great complex of materials in a state of change, bound together and interrelated by various forces to form a unit whole, though acted upon also by external forces, notably from the Sun. The problem and object of geography is therefore to study the interrelations of these forces and the resultant changes in Earth’s material.
Though he advocated in favour of the study of physical science with major emphasis on non- human organism, but all the same he attempted to include the geography of humans in his courses at Strassbourg. He kept the contemporary dichotomy between human geography and physical geography alive for a longer period.
Geographer # 5. Joseph Partsch:
One of the distinguished scholars in the contemporary German geographical scholarship was Joseph Partsch (1851-1925) who was often ranked with Hettner and Penck in the growth of modern geography in Germany. On account of his close associations at Breslau with Carl Neumann and H. Kiepert, he attempted to revive the Ritterian tradition. He made significant contributions to the advancement of regional geography, notably in the areas of Silesia and Central Europe.
Some of his generalisations on regional geography of Silesia and Central Europe seemed to have been based on his travel accounts. He developed a particular interest in the study of glaciers. Partsch visited the Alps several times and attempted to study the glacial landform in the Riesengebirge, and particularly observed moraines and granels that spoke of extended glacial activity in a particular period of time. His book on glaciology was published in 1882.
He completed and published the unfinished work of Neumann on the physical geography of Greece in 1885. On the request of H. J. Mackinder of Great Britain, Partsch prepared a regional geography of Central Europe in 1899. It was published in 1903, almost simultaneously with the first volume of his work on Silesia.
These works undoubtedly enhanced the reputation of Joseph Partsch not only in Germany, but also outside Germany. He succeeded Ratzel at Leipzig in 1905, and there he completed his work on Silesia. The second part on Mittelschlesien and the third part on Niederschlesien were published in 1907 and 1911 respectively.
It is interesting to observe that Joseph Partsch also got involved in the contemporary dichotomies and dualism in geography because he stressed more on the study of physical geography rather than on human geography. It is academically and professionally more interesting to know that he was unmoved by the tradition of Ratzel (Anthropogeographie) even though he succeeded Ratzel at Leipzig which had long remained a centre for the study of the systematic human geography, a tradition that Ratzel had founded there.
The development of the discipline from its overemphasis on classical geography to a newly conceived and applied field of regional geography was evident in the career of Partsch, a great scholar of his time whose contributions to the development of new paradigms in the study on the glacial landforms and applied regional geography had remained a source of inspiration to the succeeding generations in Germany and outside Germany also.
Geographer # 6. Albrecht Penck:
A versatile genius and a great scholar of his time, Albrecht Penck is long remembered for his valuable contribution to the development of modern physical geography. He was a phenomenon in himself as the philosophy he developed in the realm of physical geography had not only struck the German geography alone, but also the geography outside Germany.
He was the forerunner of the modern geomorphology for he is credited with the first use of the term to refer to the origin and development of the Earth’s landform. Penck was without doubt one of the scholastic giants of the last generation. His greatest contributions to knowledge were his studies of the Ice Age and its fluctuations, but he was, throughout his life, a professional geographer.
Albrecht Penck was born in Leipzig in 1858. He studied natural sciences at the University of Leipzig, beginning in 1875. He went to Munich in 1880 to work under Karl Zittel, and there he became a private doyen at the University in 1883. He was Professor of Geography at the University of Vienna from 1885 to 1906. During his stay at the University of Vienna, Albrecht carried out his greatest work on the fluctuations of the Ice Age, based on the observation of the deposits in the valleys of the Alps.
Here he collaborated with Edward Bruckner in the identification of four separate ice ages in the Alps. He was associated at the University with Eduard Suess, who prepared maps of the major geological regions of the world, outlining the great crystalline shields of ancient rocks. He succeeded Ferdinand von Richthofen at the University of Berlin in 1906, and remained there until his retirement in 1926.
Penck’s first paper on the boulder clay of the lowland of Germany appeared in 1879; Penck seemed to have supported the ‘ice sheet theory’ in place of the ‘drift theory’. He further developed the ice-sheet theory in a book which was published in 1882. In collaboration with Edward Bruckner in Vienna itself, Penck attempted to identify four separate ice-ages in the Alps, and a book to this effect was published in three volumes from 1901-09.
In the book, he supported the theory of climatic fluctuation in the ice, with the help of the collection of numerous evidences from the field observations. His division of the quaternary Ice Age in the Alps into three inter-glacial and four glacial periods (named after Alpine rivers Gunz, Mindel, Riss and Wurms) became the classic basis of quaternary geology and the springboard for the interpretation of human pre-history. This is the great contribution of Penck to the field of glaciology and quaternary geology.
Though Albrecht Penck belonged to the tradition of Oscar Peschel, but he adopted the comparative method of field study practised by Alexander Von Humboldt (which included observation, location and comparison) that must be applied in respect to a particular problem.
Penck’s objective was thoroughly geographical, but his method was geological. He attempted to show how the systematic study of physical features can be approached from the chorological point of view. In his monumental work Morphology of the Earth’s Surface, Penck attempted to introduce new paradigms and concepts as well as methods which could be applied to analyse and study the origin and development of landforms.
The method he introduced in the book was hypothetical-deductive, which sought prime causes by deduction. It attempted to set up inferences and hypotheses that led to the formulation of certain physical laws to explain the reality of the landforms.
The above book was published in two volumes. The first volume deals with the metric measurement of the Earth forms and processes involved in the formation of the Earth’s surface, and here Penck discusses at length the agents of erosion and deposition. The second volume deals with the individual geographic complexes of similar and related forms, classified and examined in terms of their mode of development.
This involved a careful empirical analysis of the various types of land surface, and their relation to various forms of composite relief. The forms of sea are discussed in a separate section under the headings of coastlines, sea floors and islands. He attached greater importance to the processes of formation of landforms and there he made suggestion for the physical laws. His system of classification was based on forms, not on process.
Penck also appears to have been influenced by the Darwinian theme—change through time or evolution—which he attempted to incorporate into his new concept of the morphology of the Earth’s surface. He sought the origin of landforms in genetic processes through time. He seems to have held the view that the climatic features are so dominant that they have direct impact on the landscape.
He used the terms ‘arid’, ‘humid’ and ‘nival’ with specific pluviographic connotations, as the basis of a world classification of climates. He hypothesised that the climate of a region so impresses itself on the observable features of the landscape that a classification of climates could be made even where instrumental records were lacking. To him, the effective rainfall of a place reflects a balance between rainfall, run-off and evaporation. He also held the view that higher the temperature, greater is the evaporation.
Though Albrecht Penck over-emphasised physical geography and geomorphology, he did not underestimate the works of humans which he thought essential to an understanding of the varying characteristics of the face of the Earth. He studied the population capacity of the Earth, in terms of the carrying capacity of specific land units.
In his ‘new geography’, Penck argued that the unity of geography should be based on the spatial arrangement of phenomena on the Earth’s surface in respect of both ‘physical’ and ‘human’ processes in so far as such processes help to characterise the unique areas of the Earth’s surface. His new geography seemed to be a revolt of the younger geographers against the old leaders.
Though Albrecht Penck offered new paradigms and concepts in physical geography and geomorphology, but his views on political geography attempted to revive Ratzel’s basic concept of lebensraum. The concepts of Reichsboden, Sprachboden, Volksboden and Kulturboden were all expounded by Penck with a view to explain the spatial range of German culture in Central Europe.
These concepts also reveal strong influence of Ratzelian tradition on the spatial growth of the state vis-a-vis lebensraum. At a seminar in the University of Berlin on the concept of natural frontiers, Penck maintained that ‘natural boundaries are those which correspond to the economic needs of the nation’.
Some of his politico-geographic concepts seemed to have stimulated the German geographers of the inter-war period to concentrate on the German need of more living space vis-a-vis geopolitics. He wrote of ‘Zwischeneuropa’ in 1916 to explain a major transcontinental zone of change in the build of Europe; of the ‘Grossgau’ in the heart of Deutschland (1921); and of the concept of Deutschland as a geographic form (1926 and 1928) which speaks of the limits of German culture that stretches from early times beyond the contemporary German concentration in Europe.
He was of the opinion that the study of geography would remain incomplete unless there is the provision of accurate maps showing the major features that are associated with areas. Systematic study of geography cannot proceed without accurate maps. He favoured the idea of large maps, full of physical and non-physical information.
Thus, he put forward the idea of topographical maps which would show the shape of relief, water bodies, vegetation and the cultural features. The preparation and compilation of such accurate maps would require detailed survey. When he raised the issue, a very small part of the world was covered by surveys detailed enough to permit the preparation of topographic-scale maps.
At the International Geographical Congress in Berne in 1891, Penck proposed that the nations of the world must cooperate in the compilation and preparation of an International Map of the world at a scale 1:1,000,000.
He suggested that there should be agreement about the accuracy of the maps, the categories of things to be shown and conventional symbols to be used and the projection. Thus, he is credited with having encouraged the nations to cooperate on the issue of compilation of topographic-scale maps, and this was achieved in the Paris conference in 1913.
Though Penck’s specialised contribution lay in the field of physical geography and geomorphology, and especially Pleistocene geology, his conceptual and substantive contribution to political geography made him one of the distinguished architects of modern German geography.
It is significant that many of the distinguished German geographers of the last generation who studied under Penck began as geomorphologists, but made lasting contributions to the geography of humans. This change is evident in the professional growth of Penck himself, in his change-over in the later period on the imprint of the works of historic humans on the landscape. His imposing figure, actual and figurative, and his tremendous research ability made him the most influential geographer in Germany.