Contribution of Carl Ritter in Geographical Thought Notes for NTA UGC NET
Carl Ritter was a contemporary of Alexander von Humboldt. He was a strong supporter of field work in Geography. Ritter had a vision of an ordered and harmonious universe and he was a teleologist. He got non-formal education at Gotha, the approach advocated by J.J. Rousseau. To study the physical landscape, he visited Switzerland and Italy. It was 1807 when he met Von Humboldt. In 1814, Ritter joined the University of Gottengen and studied Geography, History, Pedagogy, Physics, Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Botany. Ritter was appointed as the first Professor of Geography in Germany in the University of Berlin. According to him, Geography is not gazetteer of information, it is Erdkunde (Science of Earth). He claimed that the central principle Geography is “the relation of all phenomena and forms of nature to the human race.”
He regarded the Earth as a whole as an ‘organism’ and the continents as ‘individuals’ or as ‘organs’. He developed the concept of ‘unity in diversity’. Unity in diversity means that every naturally bounded area is a unity in respect of climate, production, culture, population and history. This is a regional approach. According to this approach, all the physical and cultural components of environment are taken into consideration and their interrelationship is established to understand the geography of an areal unity.
Ritter’s monumental work is entitled as ‘Erdkunde’ or an Earth science. It deals with local conditions and embraces the attributes of place with respect to topical, formal and material characteristics. The topographical attribute deals with natural division of Earth surface. The formal attribute includes the distribution and movement of water, sea atmosphere and base of human life. The material conditions covered the distribution of minerals, plants and animals.
Ritter’s method was deductive because he deduces new conclusions from fundamental assumptions or from truths established by other methods. Ritter introduced many stimulating ideas like the land and water spheres, the distinction between the rates of heating and cooling of land and water, the geographical differences in the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere, etc. He gave the theory that the Northern Hemisphere has more land while the Southern Hemisphere is water Hemisphere. He also averred that there were differences between the continents. Africa has relatively short and most regular coast line in comparison to other continents, and its interior has least contact with the sea. In opposition to this, Asia and Europe have more sea-inlets. On the basis of colour, for example, Africa is the continent of black people, Europe of white people, Asia of yellow people, and America of Red people. This overgeneralisation, however, created much obscurity in the world of geography. He identified each continent with a different race.
His monumental work is Erdkunde–a comprehensive German word which stands for the Earth in relation to nature and history. Ritter remarks that “the Earth and its inhabitants stand in the closest reciprocal relations and one can not be truly presented in all its relationships without the other. Hence, history and geography must always remain inseparable.” In Europe, for example only in the east (Russia), there was uniformity of geographical features and uniformity of history but in the west, there was variety of environment and history, and in diverse south (Mediterranean Europe) too history was rich, studded which the efforts and achievements of Carthageans, Greeks, Romans, Gauls, and Iberians. In the Erdkunde, he also advanced the theory of the north-west movement of civilisation in Europe.
The major geographical aspects of Ritter may be summarised as under:
 Ritter conceived Geography as the empirical science (Regional Geography) rather than a systematic science (Systematic Geography).
 There is a coherence in the spatial arrangement of terrestrial phenomena.
 Boundary lines, whether wet or dry (such as rivers and mountains), were instruments of understanding the real purpose of Geography.
 Geography was concerned with objects on the Earth as they exist together in an area. He studied area synthetically (Regional Geography) i.e. in their totality.
 Ritter holds a holistic view with respect to the content and purpose of geographic study and the whole study was focussed on and culminated on man.
 He believed that the Earth was an organism made, even in its smallest details, with divine intent, to fit the needs of man to perfection. In brief, he was teleologist and a strong supporter of Regional Geography.
Carl Ritter Key Points for Exam Perspective:
 He was co-founder of Modern Geography with Humboldt.
 He developed the concept of ‘unity in diversity’
 C. Ritter was founder of Regional Geography.
 He famous for his Teleological Approach.
 Ritter known as ‘Armchair Geographer’
 His Eminent book- ‘Erdkunde’.
 He follows deductive Method for Research.
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