Karl Dove, German geographer, was a grandson of the famous German climatologist H.W. Dove (1803-1879). Karl travelled to the Balkans and western Asia Minor in 1883, returning that same year to begin his studies in geography, with physics and economics as minor subjects, at Freiburg im Breisgau and Goettingen. He was awarded the degree Doctor of Philosophy (D Phil) at Goettingen in 1888 for a thesis entitled Das Klima des aussertropischen Suedafrika mit Beruecksichtigung der geographischen und wirtschaftlichen Beziehungen (The climate of extratropical South Africa with consideration of the geographical and economic relations; 1888, 90p). Later that same year an expanded version of his thesis was published under the same title (Goettingen, 1888, 158p) and became a standard textbook on the climate and agricultural potential of southern Africa.
Dove qualified as a lecturer in geography and climatology at the Humboldt University of Berlin in 1890, and two years later published a paper on the variation of rainfall around Table Mountain in Petermanns Mitteilungen. From July 1892 to December 1893 he visited German South West Africa (now Namibia) on behalf of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft, travelling from Walfish Bay via Windhoek to Rehoboth and back. This visit resulted in, among others, a series of four brief papers in Petermanns Mitteilungen, entitled 'Beitraege zur Geographie von SWA' (1894-1895), dealing with various aspects of the geography of the territory. However, the most important publication resulting from his visit was a detailed account of the geography of Damaraland, published in the same journal and in the form of a monograph, entitled Deutsch-Suedwest-Afrika, Ergebnisse einer wissenschaftlichen Reise im suedlichen Damaralande (1896). In this paper he distinguished between three distinct regions in the western midlands, namely the coastal Namib desert, a transitional steppe, and river valleys suitable for crop cultivation. In addition to the physical geography of the region he also dealt with its mineral occurrences, climate, vegetation zones, distribution of wild and domestic animals, and ethnology.
From Namibia Dove travelled to the Cape Colony, Natal, East Africa, and Egypt, a journey that was described in his book Von Kap zum Nil: Reiseerinnerungen aus Sued-, Ost- und Nordafrika (Berlin, 1898). He became associate professor of geography at the University of Jena from 1899 to 1907. He may also have lectured at Marburg University (Hugo et al, 1983). From 1914 he was a teacher of geography at the geographical institute in Freiburg im Breisgau. However, he is also claimed to have been appointed as the first Research Geographer at Windhoek, Namibia, early in the 20th century, following his earlier visit (Hugo et al, 1983, p. 10). Whatever the case may be, he continued to publish on southern Africa. His book, Deutsch-Suedwest-Afrika was published in Berlin in 1903 (2nd ed. 1913), and a paper on the geographical background for understanding Germany's wars with the local populations of the territory appeared in the Geographische Zeitschrift the following year. Other publications included papers on geographical terms in the Nama language (1900), the territory as a cattle-raising colony (1897), a book on the economic geography of the German colonies (1902), and a bundle of short stories about southern Africa (1911). He was regarded as the leading authority on Namibia during the last decade of German rule (i.e., up to 1914).
As deputy chairman of the Kolonialwirtschaftliches Komitee (Colonial Economic Committee) and board member of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft Dove was engaged in colonial politics and held decidedly chauvinist and racist views. His later research dealt mainly with the economic geography of Africa, hygienic meteorology, and the application of climatology to balneology (the study of bathing in relation to disease) and medicine. He is regarded as the founder of medical geography. His books during this period included Die deutschen Kolonien (4 vols, 1909-1913); Deutsche Klimatik (1910); Wirtschaftsgeographie von Afrika (Economic geography of Africa, 1917); and three small geographical texts: Allgemeine politische geographie (1920), Allgemeine verkehrsgeographie (1921), and Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeographie (1921).