As a child, Alexander von Humboldt was sickly and a bad student. After failing to shine in economics and engineering, he grew up to revolutionize the domain of geography. He is remembered for his research on magnetic storms and his treatise on nature, Kosmos. He also spoke about climate change.
Carl Ritter was a German geographer considered one of the founders of modern geography. He taught history at the University of Berlin and was one of the mentors of the explorer Heinrich Barth, who traveled in Northern and Western Africa. A prolific researcher and writer, Ritter produced a staggering amount of geographical literature in his lifetime.
Friedrich Ratzel was a German ethnographer and geographer. He was the first person to use the term Lebensraum, which would later become an important and popular word among the National Socialists. Also an influential writer, Friedrich Ratzel's works served as a justification for imperial expansion.
Wladimir Köppen was a Russian-German meteorologist, geographer, botanist, and climatologist. He is best remembered for publishing the Köppen climate classification system, which is used even today. Wladimir Köppen made important contributions to many branches of science. He is also credited with coining the term aerology.
Martin Behaim was a German cartographer and textile merchant best remembered for producing the oldest surviving terrestrial globe, the Erdapfel. Behaim was an adviser to John II of Portugal who consulted him in matters of navigation. Martin Behaim also took part in an expedition to West Africa.
Ferdinand von Richthofen, also known as Baron von Richthofen, was a German geographer who discovered quite a few places in and around China, thus contributing to his book China, the Results of My Travels and the Studies Based Thereon. He worked on chorography and chorology and also developed geomorphology.
Ernst Georg Ravenstein was a German-English cartographer and geographer. His efforts to introduce scientific methods in cartography in the United Kingdom earned him the first Victoria gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society. Ernst Georg Ravenstein is also credited with establishing a sporting association in London called the German Gymnastics Society in 1861.
Sebastian Münster was a German cosmographer, cartographer, and scholar. He is credited with writing the oldest German description of the world, the Cosmographia. One of the most popular and successful works of the 16th century, the Cosmographia had several editions in different languages such as English, Latin, Italian, and French.
Ferdinand von Mueller was a German-Australian geographer, physician, and botanist. He is credited with founding the National Herbarium of Victoria, the oldest scientific institution in Victoria. He is also credited with naming several Australian plants. Such is his popularity that many plants, animals, journals, and places in Australia are named after him.
German explorer and geographer Heinrich Barth was a pioneering European explorer of Africa. A linguist, he was not just fluent in languages such as French and Arabic, but he also learned several African languages. He also penned a 4-volume account of his experiences in Africa and taught at the University of Berlin.
Bernhardus Varenius was a German geographer best remembered for his work Geographia Generalis, which attempted to lay the general principles of geography on a wide scientific basis. His work had several editions, including the Cambridge edition of 1672 in which Sir Isaac Newton had introduced many significant improvements.
Erich von Drygalski was a German geographer, polar scientist, and geophysicist. He is best remembered for leading two expeditions to explore the unexplored area of Antarctica in the early 1890s with the help of the Society for Geoscience of Berlin. Erich von Drygalski also served as a professor of geophysics and geography in Berlin.
German explorer Karl Mauch made quite a few significant discoveries of geological and archaeological significance in southern Africa, such as the goldfields of Hartley Hills and the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. He, however, had initially intended to unearth the ruins of the biblical city of Ophir.
German anthropologist and historical-geographer Berthold Laufer who virtually remained the only sinologist working in the US for over three-decades, made significant contributions in shedding light on the attributes of the Chinese and Tibetan culture. He served as the curator of Asiatic Ethnology and Anthropology at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, and made major contributions to its collections.
German geographer and geologist Albrecht Penck is noted for exercising a major influence on the development of modern German geography and also for his research that confirmed the four ice ages of the European Pleistocene (Gunz, Mindel, Riss, Würm). He co-authored Die Alpen im Eiszeitalter with Eduard Bruckner, which served as a standard reference on the ice ages for many decades.
Being the son of a physician, geographer Gerhard Rohlfs was expected to take up medicine but was more interested in exploring uncharted territories and thus joined the French Foreign Legion. Best known for his journeys across North Africa, he had initially learned Arabic to travel to Morocco disguised as an Arab.
While he initially studied law and science, Philipp Clüver later joined the military and traveled throughout Europe on foot. Largely known for pioneering historical geography, he is remembered for his 6-volume treatise Introduction to Universal Geography. He had also been an academic geographer in Leiden.
German ethnologist Robert Fritz Graebner is known as a pioneering figure of the Vienna School of Ethnology and promoted the theory of Kulturkreise, or culture complex. During World War I, he was interned in Australia as an enemy but utilized his time in studying the different types of culture there.
Born to renowned travel writer Ludwig Passarge, Siegfried Passarge was naturally interested in geography and studied the subject in Jena and Berlin. Initially a military physician, he later became a geologist and surveyor and eventually a professor. Known for his research on southern Africa, he also pioneered racial geography.
German classical scholar Lucas Holstenius is best remembered for his Epistolae ad diversos, which offers a mirror of his era. His notes and annotations on various geographical works are also significant. He also headed the Vatican Library as its librarian and revised the Italian map at the Vatican gallery.
Best known for his seven-part magnum opus Erdbeschreibung, German geographer Anton Friedrich Büsching stressed on the statistical study of geography, as opposed to the traditional descriptive study. Ill-treated by his father in childhood, he was taught for free by a clergyman, and grew up to devote himself to geographical science.