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Ratzel, Friedrich (1844–1904)

  • By: Nicholas Gray
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Friedrich Ratzel was a famous German geographer, zoologist, and anthropologist. His extensive work on the links between the physical environment and society and the organic nature of the state (Lebensraum, meaning “living space”) laid the foundations for geopolitics and political geography.

Apprenticed as an apothecary, it was not until age 21 that Ratzel read zoological studies at Heidelburg University, which introduced him to Darwinism, as interpreted by his then mentor, Ernst Haeckel. After Heidelburg, Ratzel briefly worked as a travel correspondent and was awarded the Iron Cross after enlisting in the Baden Infantry during the Franco-German War (1870). Following the war, he studied with Moritz Wagner at Munich, whose Lamarckian views on species migration later influenced Ratzel's own anthropo-geographic works. In 1886, he was awarded a ...

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