Emmanuel de Martonne: biography of this French geographer

Emmanuel de Martonne was a very important illustrious figure in France in the 20th century thanks to his contributions to geography and also for having contributed to drawing the new European map after the First World War.

Disciple of one of the great geographers of the moment, Paul Vidal de la Blache, he met in life other great geographers of the moment, all interested in the different branches of this discipline.

Below we will see the life, contributions and work of this researcher through a biography of Emmanuel de Martonne, In addition to watching some very interesting episodes from the history of France in which he was involved.

    Brief biography of Emmanuel de Martonne

    Emmanuel de Martonne is one of the most important geographers of the 20th century, known not only in France but also in countries like Romania where he contributed to his border profile. In his native country, he is considered one of the main founders of physical geography, knowing very well how to combine knowledge of different natural and social sciences and thus create a multidisciplinary geography. He studied both regular geography, that is, the shapes of regions, and their ethnic composition.

    first years

    Emmanuel de Martonne was born on April 1, 1873 in Indre, France, And was the son of archivist A. Martonne. In his youth, he studied at the Lycée de Laval in Mayenne, being a classmate of politician Carle Bahon and writer and journalist Francis Delaisi. He had the opportunity to be a disciple of one of the most important geographers in the history of his country: Paul Vidal de la Blache. The relationship between Martonne and Blache ended up being very close, so much so that they ended up being stepdaughter and stepfather.

    De Martonne enrolled at the École normale supérieure française in 1895, the same year as another important French geographer: Albert Demangeon. Several years after his registration, he will obtain the same titles as his mentor La Blanche, thus gaining the profession of geographer and historian. In 1902, he presented a thesis on Wallachia (Romania) and in 1907 on the Transylvanian Alps, in the south of the Carpathians, thus obtaining doctorates in letters and sciences.s, respectively.

    At that time, he had been teaching for several years, upon leaving the Ecole Normale in 1899, he obtained the post of professor at the University of Rennes. It would be in this institution on which the Institute of Geography would be founded, taking advantage of the great push that French geography had. In 1905, he moved to the University of Lyon, replaced at the University of Rennes by Antoine Vacher. Four years later, he moved to the Sorbonne University.

    In 1912, he participated with Demangeon, Antoine Vacher and Emmanuel de Margerie in a transcontinental excursion across the United States., Organized by the American Geographical Society and headed by Harvard geomorphologist William Morris Davis. This trip would also be joined by important American geographers, including Isaiah Bowman and Douglas W. Johnson.

    First World War.

    With the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918), he reached one of the most important positions of his life. In January 1915, Martonne began to occupy a post assigned to her at the Geographical Commission, In which were also some of the most important geographers of the time such as his stepfather de la Blanche in addition to Albert Demangeon, Lucien Gallois, Emmanuel de Margerie and Louis Raveneau.

    De Martonne worked on the commission, giving professional advice to French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and his Foreign Minister André Tardieu during the Versailles Peace Congress. This congress was very important for the time and in it the geographers took a particular protagonism, since it was called to redefine the borders of the Old Continent.

    Emmanuel de Martonne was responsible for requesting the return of Alsace-Lorraine by France, a region in which the large city of Strasbourg is located and which had been under German domination since the end of the Franco-Prussian war at the end of the 19th century. century (1870 -1871).

    last years

    The figure of Emmanuel de Martonne is well known in Romania because he contribute to the establishment of the border borders of this country and other Balkan states at the beginning of the 20th century. His studies of the peoples and cultures of the region served to shape what would become a matter of a few years in modern Romania, a country he fell in love with.

    In fact, besides having researched Romania in his youth, he came to visit and work in this country. From 1921 he held a post as professor of geography at the University of Cluj. He would stop working here for a while, again focusing on traveling across Europe and learning more about the ethnic and geographic distribution of the continent until his death on July 24, 1955 in Sceaux, just outside Paris. . He is buried in the Montparnasse cemetery.

      Contributions to geography

      Emmanuel de Martonne’s contributions to French academic geography have made him a very popular figure both in his home country and abroad. His professional career spanned over 50 years and his new views on geography and the way he researched greatly influenced French academics of the time., Mainly motivated by his work as a teacher.

      After teaching at the universities of Rennes and Lyon, he was appointed president of the geography faculty of Paris, a function which made it possible to disseminate a new way of seeing geography. the teaching the geographic method to several generations of students, emphasizing the importance of fieldwork and also explaining the principles by which cartography should be governed.

      Inspired by his mentor from La Blache, he wanted to create a new approach to geography, transforming it into a multifaceted and multidisciplinary science. Thanks to the fact that he himself was a versatile man and understood in various social and natural knowledge, he was able to take advantage of the contributions of cartography, morphology, climatology, botany and zoology to make of geography a great science. In fact, some call Martonne the founder of general physical geography.


      Emmanuel de Martonne was a very versatile character, doctor of science and letters who was the author of more than 150 books and articles, in addition to having contributed to the work of Paul Vidal de la Blache by writing the fourth volume of the book “Universal Geography. ” He is also known for having developed his “Treatise on Physical Geography”, one of the most influential works in world geography.. Below is a list of several works by Emmanuel de Martonne, with their original title in French.

      • Research on the morphological evolution of the Transylvanian Alps (Southern Carpathians) (1906).
      • Treatise on physical geography: climate, hydrography, relief of soils (1909).
      • Things seen in Bessarabia (1919).
      • The geographic regions of France (1921).
      • Collection of physical geography (1922).
      • The Alps, in general geography (1926).
      • The Alps, general geography (1931).
      • Universal geography (1930).
      • Aerial geography (1948).
      • The Aerial Discovery of the World (1948).
      • Universal geography (1943).

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hallair, G. (2007) The geographer Emmanuel de Martonne and Central Europe, Paris, Grafigéo, no. 33 and 148 p.
      • Bowd, G. (2012) A French geographer and Romania: Emmanuel de Martonne (1873-1955), Paris, L’Harmattan, 222 p.
      • Palsky, G. (2002). Emmanuel de Martonne and the ethnographic cartography of Central Europe (1917-1920). Imago Mundi. 54 (1): 111-119. doi: 10.1080 / 03085690208592961. ISSN 1479-7801. OCLC 55939414.

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