Johann Georg Kohl

Intro German geographer
A.K.A. Kohl, Johann Georg
Was Geographer Librarian Writer Historian Travel writer Law librarian
From Germany
Type Journalism Law Literature Science Social science
Gender male
Birth 28 April 1808, Bremen, Germany
Death 28 October 1878, Bremen, Germany (aged 70 years)
Star sign Taurus

Johann Georg Kohl (28 April 1808, in Bremen – 28 October 1878) was a German travel writer, historian, and geographer.


Son of a wine merchant, he attended a gymnasium in Bremen, and then studied law at the universities of Göttingen, Heidelberg and Munich. When his father died in 1830, he had to break off his studies, and spent six years working as a tutor in Courland. He then traveled to St. Petersburg and other parts of Russia. In 1838, he returned to Germany and settled in Dresden from where he visited much of Europe and wrote about his experiences.

Future theories

Kohl's main scientific work, Der Verkehr und die Ansiedlungen der Menschen in ihrer Abhängigkeit von der Gestalt der Erdoberfläche (Transportation and settlement of people and their dependence on surface terrain) (1841, 1850) is regarded as the founding document of modern transport and urban geography. Using Moscow as an example, he formulated a mathematical theory for the development of spherical cities and how eventually these cities would develop skyscrapers and underground shopping centers. Similarly, also fundamental to the theoretical geography was his Die geographische Lage der Hauptstädte Europas (The Geographical Location of the Capitals of Europe) (1874).

Travels in Britain

In 1842, Kohl visited York. He wrote a lengthy description of the Minster and York's Quaker community (see pp.62-69 in Palliser and Palliser eds. 1979 York as They Saw It: From Alcuin to Lord Esher. William Sessions Limited.

Travels in America

From 1854 to 1858, he traveled in the United States. He prepared some valuable maps for the U.S. government, and at the request of the United States Coast Survey prepared two reports: History of the Discovery of the U. S. Coast and the History and Investigation of the Gulf Stream (Bremen, 1868). While in Washington and at Harvard, Kohl made friends with many writers (including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Washington Irving) and scholars (including George Bancroft, Charles Bennett Deane and Louis Agassiz). Kohl's book Reisen in Canada und durch die Staaten von New York und Pennsylvanien (Travels in Canada and the states of New York and Pennsylvania; 1856) is still consulted for historical study into Pennsylvania Dutch. On his return to Europe, he settled in Bremen where he was appointed city librarian in 1863.

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