Alfred Hettner

Alfred Hettner ( born August 6 1859 in Dresden, † August 31 1941 in Heidelberg ) was a German geographer and professor at the Universities of Tübingen and Heidelberg. Although he was editor of the Geographical Journal, its landscape theory was largely ignored, however, not his exploration of Colombia.


Alfred Hettner was a son of the literary and art historian Hettner and his second wife Anna nee Grahl.

Hettner was the first German geographer who was a university professor without having to switch from another tray to geography. After his studies in Halle, Bonn and Strasbourg, he received his doctorate in 1881 at the University of Strasbourg and habilitated in 1887 in Leipzig. In 1894 he became honorary professor in Leipzig and moved in 1897 to the University of Tübingen, where he was the first extraordinary professor of geography. But in 1899 he moved to the University of Heidelberg, where he first ao Professor and in 1906 was awarded the newly established Department of Geography. This position he held until his retirement in 1928.

Hettner conducted several extensive explorations throughout the world by, among other things, to South America (especially in the Colombian Andes ), to Russia, to East Asia (including India ) and North Africa. From 1920 to 1931 ( possibly longer) Hettner was chairman of the Heidelberger Division of the German Colonial Society.

Colombia - travel

Although Alfred Hettner has made ​​an outstanding contribution in the history of German geography, little attention was paid to the contents of his works. In particular, his early publications, such as " Traveling in the Columbian Andes " (1888 ) or " The Cordillera de Bogotá " (1892 ), are known to a wider audience neither in Germany nor in Colombia.

Alfred Hettner traveled 1882-1884 mainly by the Colombian Eastern Cordillera, but also made a short trip to the Cordillera Central. Move had the then fledgling Hettner his first ambitious goals gradually scale down. In his observations, he terminated the investigation of the natural environment and the geological structure of the Eastern Cordillera, their morphology and their exact mapping to the fore. In contrast, he neglected social geographic content largely, although this would have been very interesting from today's perspective. His statements on the urban geography of Bogotá and the prevailing problems prove to both the Colombian presence transferable, as well as on the situation of other Spanish- American countries. However, some of his statements must be (according to Peter Weichhart ) rejected. It provides, for example, on the nature deterministic thesis that lifestyles and even character traits of people by natural environmental conditions could be explained. This way of thinking is now obsolete.

Opposition to Siegfried Passarge

A subject area, in its discussion Hettner put a lot of energy, was the landscape geography. It was founded in 1919 by Siegfried Passarge ( professor at the Hamburg Colonial Institute ) in his three - volume textbook The Fundamentals of Landscape customer. He wanted to lead this area of ​​geography from the purely morphological to a more comprehensive approach to the landscape by having them added to the cross- connections to the orography, geology, geomorphology and climatology, as well as plant and animal world.

Hettner turned violently against him this seemingly artificial vision. For him, in particular the comparative landscape client was unacceptable. Quote from a pamphlet: "But in developed there principles but is nothing new, if you ' geographically ' sets instead of the word, landschaftskundlich. " He saw the previous international customer for quite enough and pleaded in opposition to Passarge for a chorographical view the landscape: it corresponds to a scale of individual rooms which the various Erdräume by size divides into continent, country, countryside and finally locality as the smallest unit of size structure.

The central point of criticism Hettner was that pass Arges independent spatial landscape customer is the ( former ) epitome of geography anyway: As a science of "understanding the earth's surface according to their spatial diversity" they have a special chorological approach that " only her suitable as a science and their justification based on the system of the sciences. The chorology, the geography to the status of space science, could just as we speak of history as a time of science ".


In honor Hettner the Hettnerweg in Berlin Wilhelm city was named after him.

Writings (selection )

Alfred Hettner was editor of the Geographical Journal and other works. Due to its innovative and weitgefasstere consideration of geography, he is regarded as one of the scientific founders of geography in Germany.

  • Mountain structure and surface design of the Saxon Switzerland. Engelhorn, Stuttgart 1887. ( Digitized )
  • Methodological time and issues, in: Geographical Journal, Vol 29 (1923 ), pp. 49-50
  • The geography, its history, its nature and its methods, Wroclaw 1927