Friedrich Ratzel

Friedrich Ratzel ( born August 30, 1844 in Karlsruhe, † August 9, 1904 in Sparrow land on Lake Starnberg ) was a German zoologist and geographer. He is considered the founder of the Human Geography, and Political Geography of diffusionism as well as an influential pioneer of geopolitics.


Friedrich Ratzel was the youngest of four children, his father Carl Ratzel, who served as a valet at the court of Karlsruhe Marquis. Sheltered and carefree he grew up in the Hofbeamtenfamilie. After completing school he started an apprenticeship as a pharmacist in Eichtersheim. After he had passed his 1863 pharmaceutical testing, he worked for several years as an assistant pharmacist. At this time, his interest grew on scientific and philological studies. He eventually studied at the age of 21 years, geology and zoology in Heidelberg, Jena, and Berlin. In 1868 he received his doctorate at the University of Heidelberg in zoology.

Lack of money eventually forced him from one of his destinations in southern France, to send his travel letters Mediterranean to the Cologne Gazette. Ratzel's travel reports were well received by the readership of the newspaper and he was permanent. He undertook further study trips to Italy, Cuba, Mexico, Hungary and the USA. 1871 Friedrich Ratzel went to the Technical University of Munich to continue his scientific studies. The geography gained more and more importance for him. 1875 closed Ratzel from his travels and began at the Technical University of Munich as a lecturer in geography. A year later he was awarded an extraordinary professorship in geography. During his time in Munich, he published, among other things, his works The Earth in 24 exoteric lectures on general geography (1881 ) and The United States of America ( 2 volumes, 1878-1880 ). His works were the beginning of human geography as a discipline.

1877 married Friedrich Ratzel a traveling acquaintance from England, Marie Wingens. 1879 and in 1881 his daughters and Hedwig Lila were born.

1886 Friedrich Ratzel was appointed to the University of Leipzig. He was appointed Professor of Geography, who was standing by the departure of Ferdinand von Richthofen available. During the next 18 years Ratzel should conduct research and work in Leipzig. He found Influential friends in the political economists and historians Wilhelm Roscher, the chemist Wilhelm Ostwald and the psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Wundt. He advocated for the expansion of the library and the expansion of the seminar business. Due to its popularity with the student body, the number of listeners to its geographical lectures increased rapidly. He was a member of several geographical societies as well as on the board of Leipzig Section of the German Colonial Society. He was also involved in the " Pan-German League " and the "Society for fleet policy ". In a study of 1901 he coined the term " habitat ", the later the Nazis made ​​it their own.

Even during the exercise of his scientific work and teaching, Friedrich Ratzel died shortly before his 60th birthday, on August 9, 1904, during his summer vacation on Lake Starnberg. At his birthplace in Karlsruhe (now Kaiser Road 123 ) in 1927, a memorial plaque attached.


Ratzel considered the founder of Human Geography and Political Geography. He entered with his human geography, which includes the human being in the geographical considerations, hitherto undiscovered territory. The description of the interactions between the Earth, nature and man saw Ratzel as the central task of the newly created discipline. This he hoped greater understanding relationships and regularities.

Ratzel was based on the unity of mankind:

"As far as the Earth is habitable for humans, so we find nations that members of the same humanity. The unity of mankind is thus the telluric or planetary feature that is pronounced the highest level of creation. There is only one human species, whose variations are numerous, but of small amount. "

As one of the most important pioneers of geopolitics in Germany Ratzel oriented strongly to the evolution theory of Charles Darwin and social Darwinism. For the description of the development of states he leaned on to essentialist terms, the state Ratzel compared with a biological organism. Growth ( and shrinkage ) of states he declared with the "law of increasing spaces." These ideas of Ratzel, who were later exploited by the geographer Karl Haushofer, regarded as an important impetus for the "living space" ideology of National Socialism.