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Historical Development of the Department of Geography

Staff development

Development before the second world war 

The development of geography as an academic discipline was at certain times strongly influenced by geographers from Bonn and is reflected in the structure and composition of research and teaching in the discipline at the University of Bonn:

The first postdoctoral lecturing qualification (German: Habilitation) of a geographer at the University of Bonn was in 1828 with G. B. Mendelssohn who was appointed associate professor in 1835, and professor ad personam in 1847. A separate chair of geography with its own staff was established in 1875.

von RichthofenThe first head of the new department was the renowned geologist F. von Richthofen, later a leading geographer. Although Richthofen only remained in Bonn for four years, he is considered to be the founder of a modern geographical and regional approach and set the course for the future development of geography in Bonn.

Richter was succeeded by J.J. Rein in 1883. With his research interest in Japan, Rein established a close association between geography in Bonn and Japanese universities which continues today.

PhilippsonA. Philippson, who held the chair from 1911 to 1929, continued the tradition of Richthofen.
Although he was a geomorphologist, he worked in many areas of geography. His regional interests were in the Mediterranean region and the Rhineland. He worked to develop and expand the department, established geography as an independent subject and was responsible for the creation of a second chair of general economic geography.

When O. Quelle was appointed to this chair a new regional research interest in Latin America was introduced, which is still active in the department today.

WaibelFrom 1930 until the forced revocation of his appointment under the Nazi regime in 1937, geography in Bonn experienced a re-orientation towards landscape studies and an economic geography based on bio-geographical concepts under L. Waibel. At the same time new regional research foci were established: the African and Latin American tropics. This comprehensive approach ultimately led to a reform of geography teaching in Bonn.

TrollC. Troll, who held the chair in Bonn from 1938 to 1966, had probably the longest-lasting influence on the departments.
His research interests in landscape ecology (Troll’s terminology) and the comparative geography of high mountain regions were mainly in the area of physical geography. He set high international standards and gained worldwide recognition for geography in Bonn.
He also equally encouraged the development of cultural and economic geography.

After the Second World War

In 1949 an associate professorship in economic geography was established, followed in 1950 by a sub-department of historical geography. In 1952 a sub-department of climatology and fluvial studies was initiated, from which the sub-department of applied physical geography later developed (headed by J. Grunert until 1996). In 1953 a sub-department for the regional geography of the Rhineland was created (W. Matzat, until 1995) followed in 1959 by a separate Department of Economic Geography with its own chair (1965 to 1986: H. Hahn). H. Hahn launched the intensive exchange with Afghanistan ("Ein Stuhl für Kabul").

Historical geography was awarded the status of a subsidiary department in the Faculty of Arts in 1962 and was headed by K. Fehn from 1972 to 2001.
The Geography Department was expanded in 1963 to include a chair of cultural geography (W. Kuls).

The development of geography as a subject continued unabated under H. Hahn, W. Kuls and W. Lauer (from 1966, successor to C. Troll) in the context "around 1968". It followed the establishment of a second chair each in physical geography (1967; 1970-1994 P. Höllermann) and economic geography (from 1972 K.A. Boesler), foundation of the sub-department for applied geography in 1970 (until 1993 G. Aymans), establishment of a further chair of geography in 1972 (E. Mayer), upgrading of the positions of D. Klaus and H. Toepfer to professors in 1982. In 1980 was H. Böhm appointed as extraordinary professor.

Since the mid-1980s almost all chairs were re-appointed due to retirements, bringing major changes in the focus of research and introducing significant experts in important methodologies: in 1987 E. Ehlers (cultural geography, developing countries) succeeded H. Hahn and in 1985 R. Grotz (urban geography, industrial geography) replaced W. Kuls, in 1988 M. Winiger (climatology, geoecology, high mountain regions) succeeded W. Lauer.

In 1995 H.-D. Laux (population and social geography) was made an extraordinary professor. In 1996 B. Diekkrüger (hydrology, ecosystem studies) took over the chair of W. Flügel, which had been made available to the Geography Department by the Faculty of Mathematics and Science in 1990 and was rededicated from the history of science to geo-hydrology. In the same year R. Dikau (geomorphology, natural hazards) succeeded P.W. Höllermann, while K. Greve (GIS) took over the newly established chair of GIS. J. Pohl (social geography, theory and methodology) succeeded G. Aymans. In 1997 L. Zöller (quaternary morphology, dating methods) succeeded J. Grunert. In 1998 G. Menz (remote sensing) took up his position as successor to W. Matzat, whose chair was rededicated. In the same year G. Grabher (regional economics and economic geography) succeeded K.-A. Boesler. Also in 1998 D. Müller-Mahn (development studies) succeeded E. Mayer, but left in 2001 to take up a chair in Bayreuth. He was succeeded in 2001 by the first female professor of geography in Bonn, S. Tröger.

Development since amalgamation into a single Geography Department

In October 2001 W. Schenk (historical geography) succeeded K. Fehn. At the same time the sub-department of historical geography was amalgamated with the Geography Department.

L. Zöller left to take up a chair in Bayreuth in 2002. The chair was briefly represented by B. Schütt, followed by J. Herget. In 2004 Herget was formally appointed to the chair. J. Hergets main interests are in geomorphology and palaeohydrology.

Changes in the years 2003 and 2004 gave the department a new direction. In 2003 U. Schickhoff (vegetation geography) succeeded D. Klaus, whose chair was rededicated from education to vegetation geography in view of the imminent end of teacher training in 2008. In 2004 H.-G. Bohle (geographical development studies) succeeded E. Ehlers, and C.-C. Wiegandt (urban and regional studies) replaced R. Grotz.

M. Winiger was elected Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bonn in 2004 after holding the office of Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science for a year. His chair was temporarily filled by J. Löffler who was appointed on a permanent basis in 2007.

In October 2004 U. Schickhoff was appointed to a chair in Hamburg. The chair of vegetation geography was temporarily filled by J. Böhmer until the appointment of S. Schmidtlein in July 2006.

The Chair of Cartography in the Faculty of Agricultural Science was assigned to the Geography Department in July 2005. The offices and staff of the chair remained at Meckenheimer Allee 172. A. Zipf held the chair of cartography from October 2007 until his appointment to a chair at the University of Heidelberg in October 2009.This post was rededicated to the Chair of Eco-Hydrology and Water Resource Management, which was filled by M. Evers in April 2013.

G. Grabher was appointed to a chair at HafenCity University in Hamburg in April 2009. After several temporary substitutes, the Chair of Economic Geography was filled by B. Klagge in 2012. In 2013, D. Müller-Mahn succeeded H.-G. Bohle who retired in the same year.

In September 2013, L. Schrott filled the position as early successor of R. Dikau who retired in February 2016 after 20 years at the department. From first October 2013 until the end of September 2015, Ch. Ifejika Speranza worked as professor for the Joint Master with the United Nations University. In November 2015, the Geography Department welcomed J. Verne as an early successor for S. Tröger.

G. Menz passed away unexpectedly in August 2016. On the 16th December 2016, N. Marquardt filled the Chair of Social Geography which has not been occupied since the passing of J. Pohl in June 2014.

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