Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor R.L. Gentilcore


This is a study in intellectual history. The focus is Carl Ortwin Sauer (1889-1975) and Sauer's ideas. The purpose of the thesis is to account for the intellectual motivation behind the "Berkeley School of (Historical) Geography" for which Sauer was wholly responsible. Historical geography in North America virtually owes its existence to Sauer's efforts. The thesis is not an analysis of the School per se but rather an investigation into its origin and underlying world view.

The stimulus behind the Berkeley School was Sauer's 1925 essay on "The Morphology of Landscape". The "morphology" had a profound impact on the discipline of geography in North America, and it carefully outlined Sauer's perspective on the field. Accordingly, the bulk of the thesis covers the period from Sauer's birth until the penning of the "morphology". The different milieux of which Sauer was member during that period are examined to determine their respective contribution to this ideas.

It is postulated that Sauer's conception of geography, as expressed through the methodology and epistemological framework delineated in the "morphology", was a reflection of his strong German American upbringing in the "Missouri Rhineland". In short, it is argued that Sauer was perpetuating the Geothean conception of science he was exposed to as an undergraduate at Central Weslevan College and that he was following in the intellectual footsteps of his father, a professor at Central Weslevan. Sauer's graduate school experiences and his early teaching positions appear to have had only a passing influence on his definition of the discipline.

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