Hartshorne, Richard. 1958. The concept of Geography as a science of space, from Kant and Humboldt to Hettner. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 48 (2/June): 97-108.


The article by Richard Hartshorne “The concept of Geography as a science of space, from Kant and Humboldt to Hettner” is concerned with the possible origin, or origins, of the concept and its significance to geography during the past century and a half (97). Richard further quotes Hettner to justify his argument,

If we compare the different sciences we will find that while in many of them the unity lies in the materials of study, in others it lies in the method of study. Geography belongs in the latter group; its unity is in its method. As history and historical geology consider the development of the human race or of the earth in terms of time, geography proceeds from the viewpoint of spatial variations (97).

Sure enough, Kant and Humboldt and Hettner and the successor geographers dug hard to propound the method of study; either involving the geography with sociology as Kant did or with cosmology as Humboldt or as a science of space as the rest of the successor did.

Richard writes, “The purpose of the paper is to trace the history of the concept from its earliest origins to its exposition by Hettner in 1895 and 1905, not merely with the bibliographical question …and the reasons why the concepts were overlooked eventually” (98). Humboldt’s concept that “the astronomy and the general geography establish a single science of cosmology” governed the geographic world until Hettner put forward his statement that “the concept of the position of geography among the science was independent” (106). Kant and Humboldt lived contemporary, but worked independently, amazingly giving the same ground for the study of geography (101-102). Richard mentions that Kant and Humboldt’s works greatly influenced the geographers, regardless of the fact that Kant’s lectures were unimpressive and antiquated; and Humboldt’s findings were unclear and confusing (102). Most of the works of Kant remained unpublished while the published works of Humboldt were unmethodical, and therefore the statements of Kant and Humboldt were completely overlooked in the second half of the nineteenth-century because they lacked the scientific reasoning. (103).  But, Hettner’s over-all contribution to the development of methodology in geography no doubt applies to this specific case because he was able to clearly express and methodologically establish what was actually present in the development of the field (106).However, Richard concludes saying that “the concept of Herttner is not to be considered as the invention of any one man or of any small number of scholars, but rather as the more or less conscious recognition of countless geographers seeking a common framework of reference for their work” (108). This is actually where I agree with Richard that Herttner alone cannot be credited for the methodical study of geography as a science because he collected the ideas from other geographers too, to formulate his concept.

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