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Semple, Ellen Churchill (1863–1932)

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

Born in Kentucky in 1863, Ellen Churchill Semple was a leading American geographer of the early 20th century and a pioneering female geographer. She was a charter member of the Association of American Geographers in 1904 and became the first female president of an academic organization in 1921.

Semple received her bachelor's degree from Vassar College in 1882 and a master's degree in 1891. In the 1890s, Semple studied at the University of Leipzig in Germany under the world's most prominent human geographer, Friedrich Ratzel. Due to the prevailing sexual discrimination at the time, Semple could not enroll in the doctoral program at Leipzig while studying with Ratzel and was even required to sit apart from her male colleagues (she would face discrimination throughout her career, ...

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