Alfred Wegener collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the German Expedition to Greenland, 1930-1931

Administrative / Biographical History

Alfred Lothar Wegener was born on 1 November 1880 in Berlin. He was educated at the University of Berlin, receiving a doctorate in astronomy in 1904. Developing a keen interest in the new disciplines of meteorology and climatology, he joined the Aeronautical Observatory at Lindenberg in 1905 where he pioneered the use of balloons to track air circulation. In 1906, Wegener was appointed meteorologist and physicist on the Danish Exploring and Scientific Expedition [Danmark-Ekspeditionen], 1906-1908 (leader Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen), organized to explore the almost completely unknown stretch of the coast of northeast Greenland between Kap Bismark and Kap Clarence Wyckoff. On his return, he accepted a post as lecturer at the University of Marburg in 1909, later publishing a standard textbook in meteorology The Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere in 1911.

Wegener returned to Greenland on the Danish German Exploring Expedition, 1912-1913 (leader Johan Peter Koch), organized to conduct meteorological and glaciological studies in the marginal zone of the ice cap in Dronning Louise Land, northeast Greenland, and to journey across the ice cap to west Greenland. On his return, he continued to develop his theory of continental drift, publishing his controversial work Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane [The Origin of Continents and Oceans] in 1915 while recovering from an injury sustained during active service with the Germany army in the First World War. After the war, he resumed work on his theory of continental drift, later accepting a chair in meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz in Austria in 1924. Wegener made his final expedition to the Arctic in 1930 on the German Expedition to Greenland, 1930-1931, organized to establish three meteorological stations on the west coast, east coast and icecap of Greenland and to conduct meteorological and glaciological observations. He died in November 1930 during a return sledge journey from the meteorological station on the icecap to the base-camp on the west coast.

Published work The origin of continents and oceans by Alfred Lothar Wegener, Dover Publications New York (1966) SPRI Library Shelf 551.241 Tagebuch eines Abenteuers. Mit Pferdeschlitten quer durch Gronland by Alfred Lothar Wegener, Eberhard Brockhaus (1961) SPRI Library Shelf (38)91(08)[1912-13]


The collection is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and 'Lifting the veil the circumstances that caused Alfred Wegener's death on the Greenland icecap, 1930' by Cornelia Ludecke in The Polar Record volume 36 number 197 April 2000 p139-154 and The Polar Record volume 1 number 1 January 1931 p9-10 and Pangaea and Berkeley

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible

Personal Names