Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Ratzel, Friedrich (Germany 1844-1904)
from Wikipedia.org |Ratzel is unique in being a central figure in the late nineteenth century
shaping of two major fields of knowledge: geography, and anthropology.
Initially interested in chemistry and zoology and influenced by the evolutionary
writings of Ernst Haeckel, Ratzel undertook several years of travel in
Europe and North America as a journalist, and this gave him a chance to
see first-hand how human beings had evolved socially, as societies, and
in response to their environment. He began to sour on natural selection
as a vehicle for understanding how humans reacted to and made use of their
surroundings, developing his own framework (in part based on the migration/dispersal-centered
ideas of Moritz Wagner) that became known as anthropogeography. Within
geography Ratzel is generally credited as being the father of political
geography (and perhaps of human geography altogether), though he also
wrote extensively on physical geography and other subjects. At the University
of Leipzig he became the center of an intellectual circle (with Wilhelm
Wundt, Karl Lamprecht, and Wilhelm Ostwald) who in sum had a profound
influence on the thinkers of their time (consider, for example, that as
a group they published some one hundred thousand pages of writings!).
Ratzel himself was perceived in the U. S. as something of an environmental
determinist among geographers for his framing of the "lebensraum" concept,
but in fact his primary documents on the subject have only infrequently
been read here, and the way the Nazis distorted his ideas for their own
purpose cannot be taken to reflect their actual philosophical content
and value. It is thus most unfortunate that Ratzel apparently died just
as he was about to begin a critical re-examination of the whole of the
subject of biogeography, as viewed through his lebensraum model--a great
lost opportunity for the field, considering the scale of his earlier contributions
to the study of political geography, ethnography, world cultures, and
--born in Karlsruhe, Germany, on 30 August 1844.
--1860-1866: apprenticed/works as an apothecary
--1866: studies zoology at Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Jena and Berlin
--1868: Ph.D., University of Heidelberg
--1868-1869: spends the winter at Cette and Montpellier working with Charles
--1869: publishes his Sein und Werden der Organischen Welt, an
early evolutionist tract
--1869-1875: works as on again-off again traveling correspondent in Italy,
Eastern Europe, Sicily, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba
--1870: severely wounded in the Franco-German War
--1871: studies at the University of Munich under Zittel and Moritz Wagner
--1875: hired as lecturer by the Technische Hochschule at Munich
--1876: advanced to assistant professor at Munich
--1878-1880: publishes his Die Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika
--1880-1886: professor of geography at Munich
--1882-1891: publishes his Anthropogeographie,
in three volumes
--1883: elected to the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina
--1885-1888: publishes his Völkerkunde,
in three volumes
--1886: made professor of geography at the University of Leipzig
--1897: publishes his Politische
--1901: publishes his Der Lebensraum: Eine Biogeographische Studie
--1901-1902: publishes his Die Erde und das Leben: Eine Vergleichende
Erdkunde, in two volumes
--dies at Ammerland, Germany, on 9 August 1904.
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 11 (1975).
--International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 13
--Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies, Vol. 11 (1987).
of the American Geographical Society,
Vol. 36(9) (1904): 550-553.
of the Association of American Geographers,
Vol. 61(2) (1971): 245-254.
--The Makers of Modern Geography (1969): 62-72.
--Friedrich Ratzel: A Biographical Memoir and Bibliography (1961).
--Perspective on Ratzel's Political Geography (1983).
Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights
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