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Born Sept. 25, 1858, in Leipzig; died Mar. 7, 1945, in Prague. German geomorphologist and geographer.
Penck was a professor at the University of Vienna from 1885 to 1906. Between 1906 and 1926 he was a professor and director of the institutes of geography and oceanography of the University of Berlin. His principal works dealt with the theory of general geomorphology and paleogeography of the Quaternary (Anthropogenic) period, the geomorphology of the Alps, the Pyrenees, Canada, Australia, and other regions, and the hydrography of the Danube.
Penck developed a geomorphological classification of climates and, together with E. Brückner, a conception of ancient glaciation (1909), proposing the division of the Ice Age into glacial stages: the Günz, Mindel, Riss, and Würm. In 1889 he introduced the concept of the “top level of denudation,” believing that the principal factors that affect the elevation of mountains are the elevation of the snow line and the timberline. These factors determine the rate of denudation and, consequently, establish a definite elevation of the top level of denudation in each climate. He later rejected these ideas and in 1919 introduced the concept of gipfelflur, which assumed, without justification, that the level of peaks is constant.
WORKSDie Vergletscherung der Deutschen Alpen. Leipzig, 1882.
Morphologie der Erdoberfläche, vols. 1–2. Stuttgart, 1894.
Die Alpen im Eiszeitalter, vols. 1–3. Leipzig, 1909. (With E. Brückner.)
Die Donau. Vienna, 1891.
A. E. KRIVOLUTSKH