Carl Ortwin Sauer Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Carl Ortwin Sauer

Birthday :

December 24, 1889

Died On :

July 18, 1975

Birth Place :

Warrenton, Missouri, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


Carl Ortwin Sauer was prominent American geography and a university professor. Born on December 24, 1889, he was regarded as the "the dean of American historical geography" and played a vital role in the early development of the geography graduate school at Berkeley. In 1923, Carl Ortwin Sauer became a professor of geography at the University of California, Berkeley reaching the status of professor emeritus in 1957.

Carl Ortwin Sauer published the article, "Recent Developments in Cultural Geography," which assessed how cultural landscapes are made up of "the forms superimposed on the physical landscape" in 1927.Carl Ortwin Sauer best known for his work Agricultural Origins and Dispersals published in 1952. Carl Ortwin Sauer became the President of the ‘Association of American Geographers in 1940.

Early Years

Carl Ortwin Sauer was born on December 24, 1889, in Warrenton, Missouri to William Albert Sauer and Rosetta Johanna Hall. Both parents were of German descendants. Carl Ortwin Sauer started his education at a school in Calur, Wurttemberg in Germany. Carl Ortwin Sauer then moved to the United States of America where Carl Ortwin Sauer continued his education at Central Wesleyan College graduating in 1908.  

In 1909, Carl Ortwin Sauer enrolled at the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to study geology, but later became interested in the study of history. After a while, Carl Ortwin Sauer returned to the study of geology and the cultural activities and physical landscape of the past. He undertook his graduate studies at the University of Chicago receiving his Ph.D. in 1915.



In 1913, Carl Ortwin Sauer received a teaching position in physical sciences at the State Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts and left in 1914. After receiving his Ph.D., Carl Ortwin Sauer joined the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor as a lecturer at the department of geology and geography. In 1918, Carl Ortwin Sauer became an Assistant Professor and an Associate Professor in 1920.

Carl Ortwin Sauer became a full professor and the Chairman of the geology and geography department in 1923. One of his teaching areas where there was environmental determinism, a subject in geography that emphasized that the physical environment determines the development of society and cultures. With his study into why the pine forest n Lower Peninsula of Michigan was being destroyed, he concluded that human control of nature determines the development of its culture and not what he previously thought. For all that while, Carl Ortwin Sauer had been teaching the opposite of his latest findings in environmental determinism. This led him to become an avid critic of the subject. Carl Ortwin Sauer moved to the University of California, Berkeley as Professor and Chairman of the department of geography in 1923. There, he developed the Berkeley School of Geographic Thought, which associated the geography of a religion to the landscape, history, and culture.

Carl Ortwin Sauer also contributed in relating the University’s geography department with its anthropology and history departments. In 1925, he published his famous paper ‘The Morphology of Landscape’ that criticised the concept of environmental determinism and emphasized that the change in the landscape and geography of an area is based human and natural activities. In the 1930s, Carl Ortwin Sauer collaborated with the National Land Use Committee in the research of the relationship between soil, climate, and landscape. In 1940, he served as the President of the ‘Association of American Geographers becoming the honorary president in 1955. Carl Ortwin Sauer remained at the University until 1954 and became a Professor Emeritus in 1957, which he held until his death.


Personal Life

Carl Ortwin Sauer was married to Laura Lorena Schowengerdt. The couple was blessed with a son, Jonathan and a daughter Elizabeth. He died on July 18, 1975, at age 85 in Berkeley, California in the United States.



Carl Ortwin Sauer was awarded the Charles P. Daly Medal of the American Geographical Society 1940, Vega Medal’ from the ‘Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography’ in 1957Victoria Medal’ from the ‘Royal Geographical Society’ in 1975 and a medal from the ‘Berlin Geographical Society. He was awarded honorary doctorates from universities like the University of California, Heidelberg University, and Syracuse University.

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