Erich von Drygalski – Expedition Participant in the Arctic and Antarctic
born: 9.2.1865 in Königsberg
died: 9.1.1949 in Munich
Erich von Drygalski first studied mathematics and natural sciences in Königsberg, Leipzig and Berlin. Then through his acquaintance with Ferdinand von Richthofen, he devoted more time to geographical questions, and wrote his thesis on the effects of the ice covering in northern regions. In 1891 and 1892/93 Drygalski undertook two expeditions to West Greenland on behalf of the Gesellschaft für Erdkunde (Geographical Society) in Berlin, the results of these journeys causing a considerable sensation. In 1898 he qualified as a university lecturer in geography and geophysics in Berlin, and in the same year was appointed head of the first German Antarctic Expedition.
The expedition ship, the "Gauss”, started from Kiel in July 1901 and returned there in July 1903. The expedition yielded a rich abundance of scientific results, which were published in a series of 20 volumes and 2 atlases. Despite this success, Drygalski was unable to gain the appreciation of the Kaiser, since the ship had advanced only as far as 66°2’ in the south, whereas the competing English had reached 82°17’. In 1906 Drygalski was appointed Associate Professor of Geography and Geophysics at Munich University. He founded the Geographical Institute here, and was head of the Institute until his death.
In 1910 he took part in the expedition of Graf Zeppelin to Spitzbergen. Following this he passed through large areas of North America and Russian Asia up to Lake Baikal in pursuit of his anthropogeographical studies. He has described his expeditions to the west coast of Greenland and the scientific results from these expeditions in numerous papers, as well as in the 2-volume book "Die Grönland-Expedition der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde” (The Greenland Expedition of the Geographical Society) (Berlin 1989). After the First World War Drygalski devoted himself more to anthropogeographical problems. Erich von Drygalski was a member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften (Academy of Sciences), and of many other scientific societies at home and abroad.