Ritter, Karl

Ritter, Karl,

1779–1859, German geographer, a founder of modern human geography. He was a professor of geography at the Univ. of Berlin from 1820. He helped define the scope of geography and its relationship to other sciences, and he emphasized the influence of natural environment on the development and activities of man. His Comparative Geography (1852) was translated into English in 1865 and 1881. His most important work, Die Erdkunde (2 vol., 1817–18), was revised and enlarged in the second edition (19 vol., 1822–59).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ritter, Karl


Born Aug. 7, 1779, in Quedlinburg; died Sept. 28, 1859, in Berlin. German geographer. Professor at the University of Berlin from 1820. Member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences from 1822.

Ritter was the author of the vast work Erdkunde (Geography), which constituted an attempt to integrate materials on individual regions of the earth; 19 volumes, devoted to Asia and Africa, were published during his lifetime. Erdkunde (Ritter introduced the term in geography) defined geography as an “explanatory” science, and it contained a delineation and description of natural regions based on natural, primarily orographic, characteristics.

In Ritter’s view, the object of geography is to learn about relationships between different forms of matter on the earth’s surface and to study individual geographic areas. Using the comparative method, Ritter attempted to classify and explain many natural phenomena and came very close to the concept of landscape, which he considered as an indivisible unit. In his interpretation of the interrelations between nature and the elements of civilization and culture, he followed geographic determinism. Many of the positions he took in his works found their support in idealist teleology. Ritter attempted to prove that nature has a determining influence on the fortunes of man, which promoted the development of geopolitics. His ideas in many ways shaped the development of geographic thought in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A mountain range in the Nan Shan system was named in honor of Ritter (seeDAKEN-DABAN).


Die Erdkunde im Verhältniss zur Natur und zur Geschichte der Menschen, vols. 1-19. Berlin, 1822-59.
Einleitung zur allgemeinen vergleichenden Geographie. Berlin, 1852.
Geschichte der Erdkunde und der Entdeckungen. Berlin, 1861.
In Russian translation:
Zemlevedenie Azii, parts 1-5. St. Petersburg, 1856-79. (Translated and supplemented by P. P. Semenov.)
Obshchee zemlevedenie. Moscow, 1864.


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