Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/244

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



umes an account of his travels. The maps illustrating this work were, as the author writes in his preface, "executed with artistic skill and scientific precision by Dr. Petermann." Henceforward the exploration of the "dark continent" was one of the two dominant thoughts of Petermann's mind, the other being north-polar exploration. He has awakened throughout Europe a lively interest in both of these departments of research, and there is no doubt that to him is due much of the advancement made in geographical knowledge during the last thirty years; and recent German explorers of Africa, as Heuglin, Munzinger, Rohlfs, Mauch, Schweinfurth, and Nachtigal, found in Petermann a powerful advocate to enlist popular sympathy for their labors. In high northern exploration he was a believer in an open Polar Sea, therein agreeing with our own great navigators, Kane and Hall, but his favorite route to the pole was along the east coast of Greenland, while our countrymen prefer the route through Davis Strait, along the west coast.

In 1854 he took up his residence at Gotha, having been appointed Director of Justus Perthes's Geographical Institute, the most extensive establishment in the world for the production of maps and charts; this position he held down to his death. That now well-known monthly journal of geography, Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt, was founded in 1855, succeeding Berghaus's geographical annual, the "Geographisches Jahrbuch." Petermann assumed the editorship of the new magazine, which quickly reached an eminence unattained by any other periodical of its class. The editor impressed his personality on every page of his magazine, and it is commonly known as Petermann's Mittheilungen. It was in the same year, 1855, that he received from the University of Göttingen the degree of Ph. D. Geographical societies throughout world have enrolled his name in the lists of their honorary membership, and in 1869 the Emperor of Austria conferred on him the order of the Iron Crown, in recognition of his services to arctic exploration. Some years ago he was appointed Professor of Geography in the Polytechnic School at Gotha (not in the University of Gotha, as some of the newspapers have it, and that for the sufficient reason that Gotha has no university). He visited the United States in 1876, and was received with fitting honors by the American Geographical Society of New York.

For a few days before his death Petermann suffered from a painful attack of bronchitis, coughing almost continually. At the same time he complained of a headache so intense that the slightest touch of a finger on the forehead caused him an agony of pain. To these physical ills were added domestic troubles of an extremely aggravating kind, and the result was a pitiable state of nervous excitement, amounting almost to frenzy. Life seemed unendurable, and, to terminate his sufferings, the great geographer died by his own hand on September 25th. His father and brother had died in the same manner.