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Martonne, Emmamuel-Louis-Eugène De


(b. Chabris, France, 1 April 1873; d. Sceaux, France, 24 July 1955)gengrophy, geomorphology, hydrography.

The scion of a noble Breton family, Martonne was the son of Alfred de Mertonne, an archivist, and the former Caroline Cadart. He entered the école Normale Supérieure in 1892 and three years later received a degree in history and geography. He subsequently attended the courses and worked in the laboratories of Richthofen at Berlin and of Penck and Hann at Vienna. Soon after his return to Paris he began fieldwork in Rumania and became proficient in the language.

In 1899 Martonne joined the geography department of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Rennes, where in the Faculty of Sciences he established a geographical labortory equipped with maps, geo logical specimens, and simple surveying instruments. He wrote several articles on the peneplain and the coastal morphology of Brittany (1904–1906); but his main publications concerned mountain glaciation, particularly in the southern Carpathians.

In 1904 Martonne went on a long excursion to the American west and Mexico with William M. Davis, professor of geology at Harvard. He became devoted to Davis’ methods of teaching, presentation and landform analysis; henceforth interests leaned increasingly toward the physical branches of geography. In 1905 he joined the Faculty of Arts at the University of Lyons.

The turning point in Martonne’s life came in 1909, when he succeeded Paul Vidal de la Blache his father-in-law as head of the department of geography in the Faculty of letters at the Sorbonne. He held this post for thirty-five years, and from 1927 he combined it with the directorship of the Institute de Geographie. From the death of Vidal de la Blache in 1918 to his own retirement on 1944, Martonne was the recognized leader of the French school of geography. A leading international figure, he was responsible for organizing the meetings of the International Geographical Union from 1931 to 1938, serving as its president from 1949 to his death. The Acadèmie des Sciences elected him a member in 1942; he also held honorary membership in a dozen foreign geographical societies and honorary doctorates from Cambridge and the University of Cluj (Rumania).

Martonne was the most important influence in the development of modern French geography into an autonomous science. As a scholar he was more interested in the patient accumulation of observed facts than in deductions but although cautions, he was fairly open-minded toward new concepts and techniques.

Martonne’s approach to the natural sciences was essentially geographical, and he took a broad view of physical geography. After describing and mapping the distribution by area of a natural phenomenon, he usually tried to associate that distribution with some general law and so to seek causes for it. Thus he tended to place more importance on comparative spatial distribution than on genetic explanation and was more inclined to determine the causes of distribution than to elucidate the scientific properties of the phenomenon itself. Among his major contributions to geographical instruction in France were his insistence on practical laboratories and on a sound knowledge of cartography and surveying. To regional geography he contributed important general descriptions of Walachia (1902) and two volumes, on central Europe, to the Geographie universelle (1931–1932). His smaller regional syntheses on the Alps (1926) and the major geographical regions of France (1921) are masterly summaries.

In physical geography Martonne’s chief contributions were to the study of mountain glaciation, peneplains, hydrography, and climatic geomorphology. His discussions of glacial erosion and the development of Alpine valleys show keen powers of observation and are his best works. He popularizes the concept that steps and over-deepenings in the floors of glaciated valleys were associated with pre-existing breaks-of-slope caused by pre-glacial and Quaternary tectonic uplifts. His elaboration of the role of snow (nivation) in sculpturing mountain landforms was one of his more original themes.

Peneplains and other erosional flattenings always interested Martonne, and he preferred Davis’ peneplanation theory to the eustatic ideas of Henri Baulig. Among the investigations he helped to initiate was an international study of terraces; the findings were edited by others for the International Geographical Union.

In hydrography Martonne published (1925–1928), with the colloboration of L. Aufrére, details of areas with endoreic (interior) drainage rather than exoreic drainage (flowing to the ocean). This survey and its world map showed that 27 percent (41 million square Kilometers) of the continental land area did not drain to the oceans, whereas the previously accepted measurement had been 22 percent (33 million square kilometers). Martonne then proceeded to relate the enfeebled nature of certain drainage systems to an increase of aridity; he also propounded an index of aridity and the concept of areism, or absense of stream runoff, a condition that occurs on 17 percent of the continental land area. He traveled widely in the deserts of North Africa and South America, in an attempt to determine a more precise relationship between aridity and surface runoff, or drainage. His first index of aridity was P│(T + 10), P being the annual precipitation in millimeters and T the mean annual temperature on the centigrade scale, 10 being added to avoid negative values. The resulting numerical scale of values was mapped as isograms the lower values coinciding with areism and the higher with exoreism. In 1941 Martonne improved his aridity index by adopting a scale based on the arithmetical mean of the index of aridity for the year and for the driest month. But the scheme, useful for broad correlative purposes only, was soon supplanted by the evapotranspiration concept, which allowed water deficiency and surplus to be assessed more accurately.

Most of Martonne’s, ideas in climatic geomorphology had already been formulated by German geographers. His account of the geomorphological problems of Brazil (1940), however, contained original observations.

As a scientific geographer and educator Martonne will probably be remembered longest for his general summaries of physical geography. His chief regional exposition of systematic physical topics was Géographie physique de la France for Gégraphie universelle (1942). His main global exposition, Traité de géographiephysique, first appeared as one volume in 1909 and achieved phenomenal success. It was entirely recast in three volumes in 1925–1927 and was kept up to date by careful pruning and enlargement. Its breadth of content, wide outlook, clarity by explanation, richness in diagrams—mostly by Martonne himself—and wise choice of typical rather than exotic examples earned it a well-deserved longevity.


I. Original Works. A complete list of Martonne’s more than 200 publications is in the obituary by Jean Dresch, in Bulletin de la Société géologique de France, 6 (1956), 623–642; and in the archives of the Académie des Sciences, Institut de France, Paris. His articles were published mainly in Comptes rendus …de l’ Académie des sciences; Météorologie; Bulletin de la Société géologique de France; and, above all, in Annales de géographie, of which he was a director from 1920 to 1940 and a chief director from 1940 to his death in 1955.

His major works are La Valachie, essai de monographie géographique (Paris, 1902), his dissertation for his doctorate in letters; Recherches sur la distribution géographique de population en Valachie avec une etude critique sur les procédés de représentation de la population (Paris-Bucharest, 1930); “La période glaciaire dans les Karpates méridionales,” in Comptes rendus du Congrés international de géologie Vienne, 1903(1904), 691–702; “La pénéplaine et les côtes bretonnes,” in Annales de géographie15 (1906),213–236, 299–328; Recherches sur l’évolution morpholgique des Alpes de Transylvanie (Karpates Méridionales) (Paris, 1907), his dissertation for his doctorate in natural sciences; “Sur l’inégale répartition de l’érosion glaciaire dans le lit des glaciers alpins,” in Comptes rendus … de l’Académie des sciences, 149 (1909), 1413–1415; “Lérosion glaciaire et la formation des vallées alpines,” in Annales de géographie19 (1910);289–317; 20 (1911),1–29; “L’évolution des vallées glaciaires alpines, en particulier dans les Alpes du Dauphiné” in Bulletin de la Société gélogique de France, 12 (1912), 516–549; Atlas protographique des formes du relief terrestre (paris, 1914), compiled with. J. Brunhes E. Chaix; and “and “Le climat facteur du relief”in Scientia, 13 (1913), 339–355.

Other works are “The Carpathians,” in Geographical Review3 (1917), 417–437; “Essai de carte ethnographique des pays roumains,” in Annales de géographie, 29 (1920), 181–198; “Le rnôle morphologique de la neige en montange,” in Géographie34 (1920),255–267; Les régions géographiques de la France (Paris, 1921); “Le massif du Bihar (Roumanie),” in Annales de géographie, 31 (1922), 313–340; “Extension du drainage océanique,” in Comptes rendus … de l’Académie des sciences, 180 (1925), 939–942, written with L. Aufrère; “Aréisme et l’indice d’aridité” ibid., 182 (1926), 1395–1398; “Une nouvelle fonction climatologique: L’indice d’aridite,” in Météorologie, 68 (1926), 449–458; Les Alpes. Géographie générale (Paris, 1926); L’extension des régions privées d’écoulement vers l’indice (Paris, 1928), written with L. Aufrére; Europe centrale, 2 vols. (Paris, 1931–1932); “Les régions arides du nord argentin et chilien,” in Bulletin de Association de géographes francais, 79 (1934), 58–62; “Sur la formule de l’indice d’aridité” in Comptes rendusde l’Académie des sciences, 200 (1935), 166–168, written with Mme R. Fayol; “Problémes morphologiques du Brésil tropical Atlantique,” in Annales de géographie, 49 (1940), 16–27, 106–126; “Carte morphologique de la France,” in Atlas de France (Paris, 1941); “Nouvelle carte mondiale de l’indice d’aridité,” in Météorologie, 17 (1941), 3–26, and Annalesde géographie, 51 (1942), 241–250; Géographie physique de la France (Paris, 1942); “Géographie zonele. La zone tropicale,” in Annales de géographie, 55 (1946), 1–18; and Géographie aérienne (Paris, 1949).

His major work was Traité de géographie physique (Paris, 1909; 2nd ed., 1913; 3rd ed., 1921). The 4th ed. appeared in 3 vols.: I, Notions générales. Climat. Hydrographie (Paris 1925); II, Le relief du sol (Paris, 1925); III, Biogéographie (Paris, 1927), written with A. Chevalier and L. Cuénot. The latest eds., as of 1970, are I, 9th ed. (Paris, 1957); II, 10th ed. (Paris, 1958); and III, 7th ed. (Paris, 1955). Abridged eds. were issued at Paris from 1922 and at London, in English, from 1927.

II. Secondary Literature. The chief assessments of Martonne’s work and influence are André Cholley, in Annales de géographie, 65 (1956). 1–14; Donatien Cot, in Comptes rendus … de l’Académie des sciences, 241 (1955), 713–716; Jean Dresch, in Bulletin de la Société géologique de France, 6 (1956), 623–642, with bibliography; and André Meynier, in his Historie de la pensée géographique en France: 1872–1969 (Paris, 1969), passim.

Robert P. Beckinsale

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