Carl Ritter

Carl Ritter ( born August 7, 1779 Quedlinburg, † September 28, 1859 in Berlin) applies in addition to Alexander von Humboldt as the founder of scientific geography.



Carl Ritter was born in 1779 in the now defunct House Stone Bridge 15 in Quedlinburg. He was from 1785 a pupil of Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths in Schnepfenthal at the Salzmann Schnepfenthal. In 1795 he met the Frankfurt merchant Johann Jakob Bethmann Hollweg, who offered him a university degree at the University of Halle in 1798 and brought him to Frankfurt am Main as a tutor for his children.


Knight visited at times with his disciples together, the Frankfurt School to complete his knowledge of Latin and Greek. At the same time he taught there also geography, history and natural history. 1810 to 1812 he lived with his pupils in Geneva. From 1813 to 1818 he worked in Göttingen on his main scientific work of the geography in relation to the nature and history of man, or general comparative geography as a secure basis of study and teaching in physical and historical sciences. In 1819 he became a professor at the Frankfurt School as the successor of Friedrich Christoph Schlosser for a short time.

Academic career

In 1820 he was appointed to the first chair of geography in Germany at the Berlin University. His lectures were very popular and were attended by opposite personalities such as Otto von Bismarck, the later Prussian War Minister Albrecht von Roon, who himself wrote several works on geography in the sense of Knight, and Karl Marx. In Berlin, Ritter learned in 1824 the Swiss geographer Gerold Meyer von Knonau, with whom he maintained a long-standing friendship letter. Knight's research focus, however, was not on the field of physical geography, but certainly in the sense of romance to the relationship between the natural environment on the one hand and the man and his culture, where he admittedly gave himself not mystical speculation, as these often in contemporary philosophy of nature find. Knight's approach created the basis for a rather long term culture ecology. Moreover, Knight strongly dealt with historical geography. He was one of the founders of the Geographical Society of Berlin. He formed a group of reformers, which also Theodor Freiherr von Liechtenstern and Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) belonged, who bore the since the turn of the century executive development of geography into a modern science in the schools.


Carl Ritter was very interested in the non-European world, especially in Africa, which he gave the first volume of his multi-volume work on geography (1817, exp. Edition 1822) devoted. The study of Africa made ​​him a radical opponent of slavery and the slave trade, which linked him to the Alexander von Humboldt. Paid particular attention knights on the colony of Liberia, of which he was expecting a civilizing impulse for the whole continent. In this respect, Knight was arrested in traditional, Christian, Western categories of thought, but he was unlike many contemporaries not convinced of the innate superiority of whites, so not a racist. Knights perspective and rejects partially, in his time popular, Calvinist doctrine of predestination from. Through his empirical studies he sees in international thinking and acting people the opportunity to change a regional state. The natural resources of each region, with which man has to deal, are in his view the " dowry " of God. Therefore, the small continent of Europe " to the ( cultural ) ruler of the whole world " has become. For various reasons, promoted Carl Ritter African studies.

One of his most famous students was until 1844 the afterwards became explorer Heinrich Barth, who graduated in 1849 through the mediation of Carl Knight and the Prussian legation to London with the London Foreign Office a contract as a participant in the Sahara Sudan expedition. According to Barth's return from Africa in 1855, Carl Ritter Foundation was founded at the instigation of. Barth's attempt to continue as an associate professor of geography at the University of Berlin, the default of Knights cultural-historical research paradigm, failed because of the rejection of the geography of historical issues and the move towards a scientific orientation, ie for physical geography, as from 1870 by Georg Gerland and Oscar Peschel Ferdinand successfully propagated and was established, inter alia, at the University of Strasbourg.

Another student of Carl Ritter, who became important in the history of expeditions, was the later China researcher Ferdinand von Richthofen.

One of his most famous student and avid supporters was the Switzerland - Americans Arnold Henri Guyot. Guyot attended lectures by Ritter and Humboldt, and was built in 1854 until his retirement in 1880, Professor of Physical Geography at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).


Knight was the founder and full member of the 1808 resulting in Hanau Wetterauischen company for the entire Natural History 1822 he became a full member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and in 1842 he was awarded the Order pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts. The Bavarian Academy of Sciences in 1848 took him on as a foreign member. In 1853 he was awarded the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art.

In Quedlinburg Carl Ritter in 1865 at the entrance to Brühl a monument. His birthplace Stone Bridge 15 was demolished around 1955. Another monument in Mummental provides Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths and Carl Ritter as teachers and students dar.

The Knights Mountains in China was named by his pupil Ferdinand von Richthofen in his honor.

His grave is located on the St. Mary's and St. Nicholas Cemetery I in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg.