Alfred Hettner

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hettner, Alfred


Born Aug. 6, 1859, in Dresden; died Aug. 31, 1941, in Heidelberg. German geographer.

In 1894, Hettner became a professor at Leipzig University, and from 1899 to 1928 he was at Heidelberg University. He traveled in South America (1882-84, 1888-90), Egypt (1908), Algeria and Tunisia (1912), and south and east Asia (1913-14). He worked in many countries of central and eastern Europe, doing research in the studies of countries, geomorphology, climatology, human geography, methods of instruction, and the history and methodology of geography and its essence and status in the system of sciences. In 1895 he founded the magazine Geographische Zeitschrift, which he headed for 40 years.

Hettner’s works on the methodology of geography were greatly influenced by idealistic philosophers. He considered geography to be a spatial (chorographic) science and believed that it should study only the spatial relationships of objects and phenomena on the earth’s surface, without investigating either their development or essence. This antidialectic attitude greatly limits the scientific value and practical use of geography. Being an advocate of unified geography, Hettner reduced it to studies of countries and landscapes, excluding from its content such divisions as general physical geography. Considering man as a component of the natural landscape, Hettner ignored the concept of society and the laws of its development. Some of Hettner’s theories and ideas expressed in his books have had an impact on the geographers of other countries.


Die Einheit der Geographie in Wissenschaft und Unterricht. Berlin, 1919.
Die Geographie: Ihre Geschichte, ihr Wesen und ihre Methoden. Breslau, 1927.
Vergleichende Länderkunde, vols. 1-4. Leipzig-Berlin, 1933-35.
Gesetzmässigkeit und Zufall in der Geographie. Berlin, 1935.
Allgemeine Geographie des Menschen, vols. 1-3. Stuttgart, 1947-57. In Russian translation, Geografia, ee istoria, sushchnost’ i metody. Leningrad-Moscow, 1930.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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This short work is a record of the Hettner-Lecture series of 2001, hosted annually by the Department of Geography, University of Heidelberg, in honour of the German geographer Alfred Hettner. The speaker for 2001 was David Livingstone of Queen's University, Belfast, who presented two lectures, followed by seminars in which graduate students and young researchers took up issues and questions with Livingstone on his lectures.