Erman, Georg Adolph

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Erman, Georg Adolph

(b. Berlin. Germany, 12 May 1806; d. Berlin, 12 July 1877)

physics, meteorology, geophysics, geography, geology, paleontology.

Erman was the son of Paul Erman, professor of physics at the University of Berlin. He himself earned the doctorate at that institution in 1826 with a dissertation in physics. In 1832 he became Privaidozent there and, in 1834, assistant professor of physics. He married Marie Bessel, daughter of the astronomer; one of their ten children, J. P. A. Erman, became a renowned Egyptologist.

In 1828 Erman accompanied a Norwegian expedition to Russia and Siberia. Leaving the expedition, he began a journey around the world that lasted until 1830 and took him from Kamchatka to San Francisco, Cape Horn, Rio de Janeiro, Portsmouth, and St. Petersburg. The primary purpose of the voyage, which he undertook on a Russian corvette, was geographic and geodesic surveying; Erman made altitude determinations, measurements of terrestrial magnetism, and meteorological observations and correlated these with the corresponding data that he had gathered in Russia and northern Asia. He also made numerous notes on natural history, general geography, ethnology sociology, and economics; these he combined with an account of his travels in the first five volumes of his Reise um die Erde (1833–1848), the second section of which, in two volumes, contains his more purely scientific data.

From 1841 until 1867 Erman edited the Archiv für wissenschaftliche Kunde von Russland, a periodical designed to propagate Russian belles lettres, which in addition contained articles on science and the arts, as well as reports on economic and social conditions and events in Russia. Erman himself made many contributions to the journal, some original and some reportorial, on many topics. In particular, he wrote on the earth sciences, and his articles include surveys of the geology of European Russia (1841) and of northern Asia (1842), each illustrated with a geological map. He also wrote on the Tertiary of East Prussia, the Cretaceous of northern Spain, and on the mammalian remains from the Baumann cave in the Harz mountains.


I. Original Works. Erman’s major work is Reise um die Erde durch Nord-Asien und die beiden Oceane in den Jahren 1828, 1829 und 1830, 7 vols. (Berlin, 1833–1848). His articles include the series “Beiträge zur Klimatologie des Russischen Reiches,” in Archiv für wissenschaftliche Kunde von Russland, 1 (1841), 562–579; 3 (1843), 365–438; 4 (1845), 617–640; 6 (1848), 441–488; 9 (1851), 33–130; 12 (1853), 645–665; “über den dermaligen Zustand und die allmälige Entwickelung der geognostischen Kenntnisse vom Europäischen Russland,” ibid., 1 (1841), 59–108, 254–313, with a geological map; “Ueber die geognostischen Verhältnisse von Nord-Asien in Beziehung auf das Gold Vorkommen in diesem Erdtheile,” ibid., 2 (1842), 522–556, 712–789, 808–809, with a geological map, and 3 (1843), 121–177, 185–186; “Bemerkungen über einem am Ural gebräuchlichen Seilbohrapparat,” ibid., 12 (1853), 333–357; and “Bemerkungen über ein bei den Jakuten und in Andalusien gebräuchliches Feuerzeug,” ibid., 19 (1860), 298–326.

II. Secondary Literature. On Erman and his work, see Poggendorff and Neue deutsche Biographie, IV (1959), 598–600; Wilhelm Erman, “Paul Erman. Ein Berliner Gelehrtenleben 1764–1851,” in Schriften des Vereins für die Geschichte Berlins, 53 (1927), 104–105, 169–172, 187–192, 199–209, 216–222, and 227; a portrait is on p. 184.

Heinz Tobien