Penck, Walther

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Penck, Walther


Born Aug. 30, 1888, in Vienna; died Sept. 29, 1923, in Stuttgart. German geologist and geomorphologist; one of the founders of the German school of geomorphology. Son of A. Penck.

Penck was educated at the universities of Berlin and Heidelberg. In 1914 he was a privatdocent at the University of Leipzig and from 1915 to 1918 a professor at the University of Istanbul. He studied the geomorphology and geology of the Andes, the Hawaiian Islands, the Apennines, Sicily, Asia Minor, Central Europe, and other regions.

Penck developed a theory of the formation of relief as a result of the interaction of vertical movements of the earth’s crust and conjugate denudation processes. His method of studying the relief, called morphological analysis, demonstrated the interdependence of land forms, exogenic processes, and tectonic movements. Depending on the relative intensities of the processes of uplift denudation, Penck distinguished ascending, balanced, and descending relief development. A definite slope type —concave, straight, or convex—corresponds to each of the types of relief development. Penck also developed the concept of major folds as one of the forms of mountain relief caused by tectonics. In the 1920’s he introduced the concept of piedmont benchlands (Treppen concept) to explain stepped mountain slopes. Despite their schematic character, Penck’s ideas on using analysis of the relief to study tectonic movements greatly influenced the development of geomorphology.


Die morphologische Analyse: Ein Kapitel der physikalischen Geologie. Stuttgart, 1924.
In Russian translation:
Morfologicheskii analiz. Moscow, 1961.


Markov, K. K. Osnovnye problemy geomorfologii. Moscow, 1948.
Krivolutskii, A. E. Zhizn’ zemnoi poverkhnosti. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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