Domiciled at UZH, Switzerland’s largest department of geography is celebrating its 125th anniversary. As Director Jan Seibert explains, no other discipline offers greater variety.
The extent to which geography has developed since the beginnings of the department 125 years ago becomes clear when we take a look at its founding father, Otto Stoll. Originally a physician, he established the department when he was appointed the first full professor of geography at UZH in 1895. Stoll had a wide range of interests: he collected zoological material in Guatemala and described Native American tribes. Appointed an associate professor of geography in 1891, Stoll embodies the pioneering age of the discipline, when geographers were primarily chroniclers, describing foreign lands, their bodies of water and mountains, as well as exotic peoples.
“Today, geography is a scientific discipline that examines the natural and social processes which define our habitat,” says Jan Seibert, director of Switzerland’s largest department of geography. Or as stated on a board on the Irchel campus: “Geography explores nature and society with the goal of explaining spatial systems and processes.”
The picture shows researchers of the Department of Geography above the Zmutt Glacier in the Mattertal: They measure the movement of the debris-covered glacier with a radar. (Picture: Andreas Vieli)