Geography, the science of place, i.e., the study of the surface of the earth, the location and distribution of its physical and cultural features, the areal patterns or places that they form, and the interrelation of these features as they affect humans. Methods and Branches
Geography is a synoptic science that uses the same elements as the other sciences but in a different context. It integrates data spatially, making elaborate use of maps as its special tool. Geography may be studied by way of several interrelated approaches, i.e., systematically, regionally, descriptively, and analytically. The systematic approach organizes geographical knowledge into individual categories that are studied on a worldwide basis; the regional approach integrates the results of the systematic method and studies the interrelationships of the different categories while focusing on a particular area of the earth; the descriptive approach depicts where geographical features and populations are located; the analytical approach seeks to find out why those features are located where they are. In the study of geography two main branches may be distinguished, physical geography and human (or cultural) geography, originally anthropogeography. The first, based on the physical sciences, studies the world's surface, the distribution, delineation, and nature of its land and water areas. Climate, landforms (see geomorphology), and soil are examined as to origin and are classified as to distribution. Drawing on the biological sciences, fauna and flora (biogeography) are brought into an areal pattern. Through the mathematical sciences the motion of the earth and its relationship to the sun (seasons), the moon (tides), and the planets are studied, as well as mapmaking and navigation. Human geography places humans in their physical setting; it studies their relationship with that environment as well as their conscious activities and continuous progress in adapting themselves to it (and to other humans) and in transforming their environment to their needs. Human geography may in turn be subdivided into a number of fields, such as economic geography, political geography (with its 20th-century offshoot, geopolitics), social geography (including urban geography, another 20th-century ramification), environmental perception and management, geographical cartography, geographic information systems, and military geography. Historical geography (which reconstructs geographies of the past and attempts to trace the evolution of physical and cultural features) and urban and regional planning are sometimes considered branches of geography. History of Geographic Study
Geography was first systematically studied by the ancient Greeks, who also developed a philosophy of geography; Thales of Miletus, Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Aristotle , Strabo , and Ptolemy made major contributions to geography. The Roman contribution to geography was in the exploration and mapping of previously unknown lands. Greek geographic learning was maintained and enhanced by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. Arab geographers, among whom Idrisi , Ibn Battutah, and Ibn Khaldun are prominent, traveled extensively for the purpose of increasing their knowledge of the world. The journeys of Marco Polo in the latter part of the Middle Ages began the revival of geographic interest outside the Muslim world. With the Renaissance in Europe came the desire to explore unknown parts of the world that led to the voyages of exploration and to the great discoveries. However, it was mercantile interest rather than a genuine search for knowledge that spurred these endeavors. The 16th and 17th cent. reintroduced sound theoretical geography in the form of textbooks (the Geographia generalis of Bernhardus Varenius ) and maps (Gerardus Mercator 's world map). In the 18th cent. geography began to achieve recognition as a discipline and was taught for the first time at the university level. The field of...
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