Erkenntnisgewinnung in den Naturwissenschaften

Entwicklung des Lawinenwissens zwischen 1820 und 1930


  • Sabine Stössel
  • Armin Rempfler PH Luzern



Background: Snow avalanches as an example of natural hazards represent a research field relevant to geography education because it is about spatial human-environment interactions. The historical development of this knowledge contains didactic potential because it is able to show through which questions or inconsistencies and along which paths objective knowledge has been formed.

Purpose: This contribution to the history of science examines the question of how avalanche knowledge developed between the early 19th century and the institutional scientification of avalanche science around 1930.

Sample/Setting: Out of approximately 80 primary sources, 54 were identified as relevant and evaluated by content analysis with the help of secondary sources.
Design and Methods: Following the model of didactic reconstruction and based on guiding concepts of current avalanche research, the following steps were taken: 1) compilation of the corpus of primary and secondary sources, 2) differentiation of four text genres, 3) formation of categories based on current avalanche research, 4) analysis of the corpus of primary sources using the guiding categories, 5) critical reflection on the guiding assumptions of the research.

Results: The results of the qualitative study refute the current state of historical research: the scientific discourse on the development of avalanche knowledge to date completely ignores considerable findings in the «ski guide literature». It can be shown that by 1930 Paulcke and Zdarsky, two authors of guidebooks, had acquired a level of knowledge about the formation of slab avalanches that largely corresponds to today's knowledge.

Conclusions: From a didactic point of view and especially from the perspective of Nature of Science, the results presented reveal a high potential for teaching basic principles of how scientific knowledge is gained.

Keywords: Avalanche formation, Nature of Science, Qualitative content analysis