Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Three gables

Steffen, Hans (1865-1936)

Hans Steffen was a German geographer. Steffen firstly studied history at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin (today’s Humboldt University of Berlin), followed by geography at the University of Halle. He obtained his doctorate in 1886 on the geography of Lower Franconia. Steffen travelled to Chile in 1889 and lectured in history and geography at the Instituto Pedagógico de la Universidad de Chile (Santiago de Chile) and helped train teachers. He served as an expert on the Chilean border commission and was contracted by the Chilean government to travel to the unexplored river basins of the West Patagonian Cordillera region (1893-1899). His expeditions played an important role in resolving the border disputes between Chile and Argentina in this area and his findings influenced the ruling of the English court of arbitration on November 20, 1902. In 1906 he was on a commission investigating damage caused by an earthquake in Valparaíso. Suffering from lung disease, Steffen returned to Europe in 1913, firstly living in Berlin and finally settling in Switzerland, where he died. His work focused on researching the Patagonian Cordillera and studying its continental divide. He was also the first to explore the ice field in the southern Patagonian Cordillera.


  • 40 boxes, 2 large-format folders, photographic material
  • travel diaries
  • lectures
  • notes
  • sketches
  • letters
  • postcards
  • newspaper clippings
  • brochures
  • approx. 300 maps
  • approx. 1,400 photographs
  • 105 glass-plate negatives, 49 glass-plate positives, 479 sheet film negatives

Keywords: Chile, Germans abroad, emigration, geography, travelogues, history of science

Exhibition: Hans Steffen. Grenzerfahrungen eines deutschen Geografen in Chile
Miradas Alemanas
Formal and Scientific Indexing of Hans Steffen’s Papers

Hans Steffen in the Digital Colecctions IAI

See examples for online-catalogue entries:

2017 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz