Geography is the study of the locational and spatial variation in both
physical and human phenomena on Earth. The word derives from the Greek words
h� g� ("the Earth") and graphein ("to write").
Geography is also the title of various historical books on this subject,
notably the Geographia by Klaudios Ptolemaios (2nd century).
Geography is much more than cartography, the study of maps. It not only
investigates what is where on the Earth, but also why it's there and not
somewhere else, sometimes referred to as "location in space". It studies
this whether the cause is natural or human. It also studies the consequences
of those differences.
History of Geography
The Greeks are the first known culture to actively explore geography as a
science and philosophy, with major contributors including Thales of Miletus,
Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, Aristotle, Dicaearchus of Messana,
Strabo, and Ptolemy. Mapping by the Romans as they explored new lands added
During the Middle Ages, Arabs such as Idrisi, Ibn Battuta, and Ibn Khaldun
built on and maintained the Greek and Roman learnings. Following the
journeys of Marco Polo, interest in geography spread throughout Europe.
During the Renaissance and into the 16th and 17th centuries the great
voyages of exploration revived a desire for solid theoretical foundations
and accurate detail. The Geographia Generalis by Bernhardus Varenius and
Gerardus Mercator's world map are prime examples.
By the 18th century, geography had become recognized as a discrete
discipline and became part of a typical university curriculum. Over the past
two centuries the quantity of knowledge and the number of tools has
exploded. There are strong links between geography and the sciences of
geology and botany.
Spatial interrelationships are key to this synoptic science, and it uses
maps as a key tool. Classical cartography has been joined by the more modern
approach to geographical analysis, computer-based geographic information
Geographers use four interrelated approaches:
* Systematic - Groups geographical knowledge into categories that can be
* Regional - Examines systematic relationships between categories for a
specific region or location on the planet.
* Descriptive - Simply specifies the locations of features and
* Analytical - Asks why we find features and populations in a specific
This branch focuses on Geography as an Earth science, making use of biology
to understand global flora and fauna patterns, and mathematics and physics
to understand the motion of the earth and relationship with other bodies in
the solar system. It also covers mapmaking and navigation, and includes
The human, or political/cultural, branch of geography - also called
anthropogeography focuses on the social science, non-physical aspects of the
way the world is arranged. It examines how humans adapt themselves to the
land and to other people, and in macroscopic transformations they enact on
the world. It can be divided into the following broad categories: economic
geography, political geography (including geopolitics), social geography
(including urban geography), feminist geography , environmentalism,
cartography, and military geography.
This branch seeks to determine how cultural features of the multifarious
societies across the planet evolved and came into being. Study of the
landscape is one of many key foci in this field - much can be deduced about
earlier societies from their impact on their local environment and surroundings.
Urban and Regional Planning
Urban planning and regional planning use the science of geography to assist
in determining how to develop (or not develop) the land to meet particular
criteria, such as safety, beauty, economic opportunities, the preservation
of the built or natural heritage, etcetera. The planning of towns, cities
and rural areas may be seen as applied geography although it also draws
heavily upon the arts, the sciences and lessons of history. Some of the
issues facing planning are considered briefly under the headings of rural
exodus, urban exodus and Smart Growth.
In the 1950s the regional science movement arose, led by Walter Isard to
provide a more quantitative and analytical base to geographical questions,
in contrast to the more qualitative tendencies of traditional geography
programs. Regional Science comprises the body of knowledge in which the
spatial dimension plays a fundamental role, such as regional economics,
resource management, location theory, urban and regional planning,
transportation and communication, human geography, population distribution
and environmental quality.