When reviewing the influences of the following notable geographers, focus on the patterns and connections of the evolution of the key geographic concepts, models, and innovations.






Jared Diamond (1937-)

Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997); geographic luck (environmental determinism)

Carl Sauer (1889-1975)

Wilbur Zelinsky (1921-)

Sauer discussed cultural geography; fierce critic of environmental determinism, his ideas supported cultural ecology. Zelinsky was student of Carl Sauer; a cultural geographer who, for six decades, has been an original and authentic voice in American cultural geography.

Alfred Wegener (1880-1930)

Continental drift (1915): hypothesized that the continents were slowly drifting around the Earth. His hypothesis was not accepted until the 1950s, when numerous discoveries provided conclusive evidence (plate tectonics).


Ernst Ravenstein (1834-1913)


Laws of migration (1885):

1)    Net migration amounts to a fraction of the gross migration.

2)   The majority of migrants move a short distance.

3)   Migrants who move longer distances tend to choose big-cities.

4)   Urban residents are less migratory than inhabitants of rural areas.

5)   Families are less likely to make international moves than young adults.

Gravity model: (shown to the left) interaction is proportional to the multiplication of the two populations divided by the distance between them; this phenomenon is distance decay (the effect of distance on cultural or spatial interactions).

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)

Gave a dystopian (not Utopian) view of the future (1798); food production increases arithmetically, whereas human reproduction increases geometrically (doubling each generation); despite checks on population (e.g., plague, famine) there would continue to be starvation.


Esther Boserup (1910-1999)

In 1965, Boserup discussed that population growth stimulates intensification in agricultural development (stimulates technology) … rather than being increased by agricultural output (Malthus upside-down); the rate of food supply may vary but never reaches its carrying capacity because as it approaches the threshold, an invention or development increases food supply, however, the depletion of nutrients creates diminishing returns.

File:Graph boserup.JPG

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Capitalism promotes class struggle and an unequal distribution of wealth (and food); socialism promotes the equal distribution of power and wealth (and food).


Alfred Mahan (1840-1914)

Sea Power (1890): discussed the influence and importance of sea power; explained Britain’s dominance (19th c.) and the value of a strong navy.

Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904)

German geographer who discussed geopolitics (1901) and more specifically, lebensraum (“living space”).  Ratzel’s organic theory postulated that a country, which is an aggregate of organisms (people), would itself function and behave like an organism … to survive, a state requires nourishment – in the global context, this means territory – to gain political power.

Halford Mackinder (1861-1947)

Heartland Theory (1904): the resource-rich, land-based “pivot area” (Heartland) would be key to world dominance (controlled by the USSR at that time; diametrically opposed to Mahan’s contention of sea power;

"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;

Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;

Who rules the World-Island controls the world."


Nicolas Spykman (1893-1943)

Rimland Theory (1944): the Eurasian Rimland, not the Heartland would be key to global power; the Rimland would be important in containing the Heartland; Britain, US and USSR would be the main power players;

Who controls the rimland rules Eurasia;

Who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world.


*Spykman is known as the “godfather of containment”



Marija Gimbutas (1921-1944)

Introduced the Kurgan Hypothesis (1950s), which states the Proto-Indo-European language diffused from modern day Ukraine through conquest.

File:IE expansion.png

Colin Renfrew (1937-)

The Anatolian Hypothesis (1987) states the P-I-E language spread through the innovation of agriculture rather peacefully with Anatolia (modern day Turkey) as the hearth.


Joel Garreau (1948-)

The Nine Nations of North America (1981); Garreau argues that North America can be divided into nine regions, or "nations", which have distinctive economic and cultural features; he contends that conventional national and state borders are largely artificial and irrelevant, and that his "nations" provide a more accurate way of understanding the true nature of North American society.  In 1991, Garreau discussed the development of edge cities as autonomous loci of economic activity on the urban fringe of US cities away from the CBD.



J. H. von Thünen (1783-1850)

Isolated State (1826): Discussed agricultural location as primarily a factor of transportation cost and profit maximization by farmers through his model. For the image to the left - the black dot represents a city; 1 (white) dairy and market gardening; 2 (green) forest for fuel and building materials; 3 (yellow) grains and field crops; 4 (red) ranching; the outer, dark green area represents wilderness where agriculture is not profitable.

Norman Borlaug (1914-)

Has been called the father of the Green RevolutionDuring the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of varieties of high-yielding seeds (wheat) combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, India, and later to China.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply.


Ernest Burgess (1886-1966)

     CBD      Zone of transition       Working class zone

      Residential zone       Commuter zone

Concentric Zone Model (1925): structural model of the American central city (based on Chicago in the 1920s); the zones identified are 1) the CBD; 2) the transition zone of mixed residential, factory, and commercial use;
3) low-class residential homes (inner city);
4) better quality middle-class homes; and
5) upper-class commuters zone.  Burgess's work is based on bid rent … the amount that people will pay for the land (e.g., wealthier families tended to live much further away from the CBD; could afford automobiles).

Homer Hoyt (1895-1984)

File:Homer hoyt1.png


Sector Model (1939): improvements in transportation made the Burgess Model more obsolete.  Hoyt observed that zones expanded outward from the city center along electric trolley lines, railroads, highways, and other transportation arteries; wedge-shaped patterns -- or sectors -- emanating from the CBD and centered on major transportation routes.

Chauncy Harris (1914-2003) & Edward Ullman (1912-1976)



Multiple Nuclei Model (1945): based on the idea that people have greater movement due to increased car ownership. This increase of movement reduced the primacy of the CBD and allowed for the specialization of regional centers (e.g., nuclei such as light manufacturing or business parks).

Edward Ullman (again)

Ullman’s Conceptual Frame: proposed that trade was an interaction based on four phenomena: complementarity, intervening opportunities, and transferability, and comparative advantage.

Walter Christaller

Central Place Theory


Central place theory (1933): designed to explain the spatial distribution of human settlements. Central places are settlements providing services to their surrounding “market areas”. The ordering of settlements based on the number and level of services they provide produces a hierarchy. Like the left-hand diagram, hierarchies are often complicated because market areas of different-order settlements overlap (shown as solid and broken lines).


Alfred Weber (1868-1958)


Least Cost Theory (1940s): owners of manufacturing plants seek to minimize three costs: 1) transportation, 2) labor, and 3) agglomeration (too much can lead to high rents & wages, circulation problems – and ultimately to deglomeration); in the weight-losing case, firms locate closer to the raw materials to reduce cost; in the weight-gaining case, firms locate closer to the market.

Walter Rostow (1916-2003)

Modernization Model (1960): a liberal model that postulates that economic modernization occurs in five basic stages:

1)   Traditional society

2)   Precondition for takeoff

3)   Takeoff

4)   Drive to Maturity

5)   Age of Mass Consumption

Immanuel Wallerstein (1930-)

World Systems Theory (1974-89): proposed a three-tier structure to a “one-world” economic and political structure; the "core" (industrialized capitalist countries – US, UK, Japan) dominates other countries; the "semi-periphery" (industrializing – Brazil, China, India) as the countries which are dominated (usually by the core) while at the same time dominating others (usually in the periphery); and "periphery" (undeveloped or developing – Congo, Zambia, Haiti) are dominated since they are often dependent on the more powerful countries.