Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Köppen, Wladimir Peter (Russia-Germany 1846-1940)
climatology, meteorology

Photo courtesy of the
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Köppen's diverse training in the basic sciences served him well over a professional career that extended into eight decades. He is best known for his celebrated climate classification scheme, work on which he began in the 1880s, but which culminated in his most famous work, "Das Geographische System der Klimate," as late as 1936 (when Köppen was ninety). Köppen's model integrated precipitation and temperature regimes in such a fashion as to relate climate to vegetation patterns, thus serving thinking in several fields, notably climatology, meteorology, phytogeography, hydrography, and physiological ecology. Earlier, he had made a name for himself by simplifying and improving the oceanic wind charts developed by oceanographer Matthew Maury to such an extent that he is sometimes referred to as the father of maritime meteorology. Köppen also worked in the area of paleoclimatology, his most important publication in this realm being Die Klimate der Geologischen Vorzeit (co-written with Alfred Wegener, his son-in-law), which featured arguments supporting the Milankovic cycles theory of the origin of the Ice Age. His most ambitious project was perhaps his Handbuch der Klimatologie: this was never completed, but still ran to five volumes with the help of his co-editor on the project, Rudolf Geiger. Köppen's personal motto was reputedly "without haste and without rest," as is evident from his large but solid body of work.

Life Chronology

--born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 25 September 1846.
--1864-1870: studies botany, zoology, physics, and climatology at St. Petersburg, Heidelberg, and Leipzig; completes his doctorate in 1870
--1872-1873: works for the Russian Meteorological Service
--1874: publishes "Über die Abhängigkeit des Klimatischen Charakters der Winde von Ihrem Ursprunge" in Reportorium für Meteorologie (relating wind to air pressure)
--1875: moves to Germany and is made chief of the marine meteorology division of the German naval observatory (Deutsche Seewarte) in Hamburg
--1884: publishes an early version of his map of climatic zones
--1886-1891: co-editor, Zeitschrift, Deutsche Meteorologische Gesellschaft
--1899: publishes his Grundlinien der Maritimen Meteorologie
--1919: retires from the German naval observatory; succeeded by A. L. Wegener
--1924: publishes his Die Klimate der Geologischen Vorzeit, with A. L. Wegener
--1930-1939: co-edits the Handbuch der Klimatologie, in five volumes, with R. Geiger
--1931: publishes his Grundriss der Klimakunde
--1936: publishes "Das Geographische System der Klimate" in Band 1 of the Handbuch der Klimatologie
--dies at Graz, Austria, on 22 June 1940.

For Additional Information, See:

--Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 77(5) (1996): 935-952.
--Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate, Vol. 1 (2002).
--Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, 2nd Ed., Vol. 1 (1994).
--Dictionary of German Biography, Vol. 5 (2003).
--Wladimir Köppen: Ein Gelehrtenleben (1955).

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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