Immanuel Kant: (1724-1804) Better Known for His Contributions to Philosophy, Immanuel Kant Also Played an Important Role in the Development of Geographical Thought in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Article excerpt

What was his background?

Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia, on 22 April 1724. The son of a craftsman, he spent eight years at the Collegium Fridericianum, where his parents hoped he would study theology. However, his inclination was towards the classics, and he was recognised as one of the most promising classical scholars at the college.

In 1740, Kant entered the University of Konigsberg and studied primarily with the philosophy faculty. His father died in 1746, and for the next nine years, Kant earned his living as a private tutor. In 1756, he gained a professorship and supplemented his income by working as an assistant librarian and through lecturing. Around this time, he introduced a series of popular lectures on physical geography that regularly attracted audiences of up to 50 freshmen.

What did he achieve?

Although Kant was a philosopher, he had a great impact on geography by helping to solidify its place among university disciplines. He was also instrumental in freeing geography from its previous close relationship with theology.

What were his contributions to geographical science?

Kant said, "I treat geography not with the completeness and philosophical exactitude in each part, which is a matter for physics and natural history, but with the rational curiosity of a traveller who collates his collection of observations and reflects on its design" Kant proposed that human knowledge could be organised in three ways: by classifying facts according to the type of objects studied, by examining the temporal dimension and looking at things in terms of their history, and by understanding facts relative to spatial relationships. …