There are a lot of things we can learn about and study in the world. Geography is one such subject that is vast with an abundance of information. It refers to the science that studies the inhabitants, features, lands and the phenomenon of the earth. Geographers ask various questions about what these different phenomena and relationships are, how they could be interrelated, as well as how societies and environments are connected to each another. The solutions to how and why they change and the variation in characteristics across time and space at different scales are studied under this subject. Geography is divided into two branches, that is, physical geography and human geography. It is also referred as the world discipline and the bridge between the human and the physical science. Geography seeks to understand the Earth and all of its human and natural complexities not only the knowledge of the objects but also about how they have changed and their respective outcome. It attempts to understand the Earth and all of its human and natural complexities a well. Geographical thought build ups knowledge and understanding from three concepts that are complementary. These three are:
- Place:Geographers explore how people shape places, what places mean, and how places shape our lives.
- Environment: Geographers conduct investigations including the nature, dimensions and causes of environmental change, the relationships between the environment and people and the resources biophysical systems provide as well as their sustainability.
- Space: It is the job of geographers to inspect how, why and with what affect a wide range of phenomena varies across the surface of the earth.
Geography tells us about many important things. Some include:
- Our natural environments and the pressures faced by them.
- Depicting the reason about changing of the world, globally and locally.
- The choices that exist in managing out world for the future.
- The places that we live and work in.
- The vitality of region in decision making and business.
- The relationships between the various communities in the world.
- How our societal as well as individual actions contribute to the changes.
Geography is extremely broad. Physical geography focuses on geography as an earth science. It aims to understand the hydrosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and pedosphere. It can be divided into:
- Climatology & Meteorology
- Coastal geography
- Environmental management
- Hydrology & Hydrography
- Landscape ecology
- Quaternary science
Human geography in contrast, looks into the study of patterns and processes that shape the human society. Some of the sub-categories included under this vertical are:
- Cultural geography
- Development geography
- Economic geography
- Health geography
- Historical & Time geog.
- Political geog. & Geopolitics
- Pop. geog. or Demography
- Religion geography
- Social geography
- Transportation geography
- Tourism geography
- Urban geography
Along with physical and human geography, there are other areas of study such as integrated geography, geomatics, and regional geography. Those who study this have an abundance of career opportunities. Some include climate change assessment and planning, climatology, sustainability, surveying and geomatics, remote sensing, population analysis, mapping and cartography, natural resource management and agriculture, local and regional development, environmental science, etc. There are numerous geographical organizations as well such as International Geographical Union (IGU), Hong Kong Geographical Association, Human Geographical Society of Japan, American Geographical Society, Canadian Association of Geographers, Geographical Association, Society of South African Geographer etc.
It is crucial to understand and learn geographical aspects for a number of reasons. The most significant are:
- Studying Geography in order to understand our planet: Studying geography helps us to be much more prepared when trying to understand topics that impact our planet.
- Studying the geographical regions: A number of people who study geography learn about the differences between various world regions. Some geographers even devote their studies and careers to learning and understanding a specific region/country in the world.
- Being a well-educated global citizen: Geography provides people with knowledge about our rapidly-changing world and how humans are impacting our planet. Those who study geography also learn to think critically.
Geographers use four approaches during the research and study which are interrelated. They are:
- Analytical: This approach inquires about why we find features and populations in a specific geographic area.
- Descriptive: The descriptive approach specifies the locations of features and populations.
- Regional: This approach examines the systematic relationships between various categories for a specific region or location on the planet.
- Systematic: The systematic approach involves grouping geographical knowledge into categories that can be explored globally.
Eratosthenes was the first person to use the word "geography" and the oldest known world maps date as far back as 9th century BC with the exception of the Babylonian world map from 600BC. Traces of geography can be seen in a number of cultures such as the Chinese, Greeks, etc. Anaximander (c.610BC Ô??c. 545BC) is credited for the gnomon, an early instrument for the measurement of latitude, while Thales is known for his prediction of eclipses. One the initial estimates of the Earths radius was formed by an individual by the name of Eratosthenes while Hipparchus is known for his latitude and longitude line system. The start of the middle ages resulted in a drastic shift in the evolution of geography for Europe to the Islamic regime. A number of Muslim geographers created world maps filled with details and provided accounts of their journeys as well as the geography of the regions they visited. Islamic scholars also translated and interpreted the earlier works of the Greeks and Romans. Abu Rayhan Biruni was reputed as the most skilled when it came to measuring the distances between cities and mapping them. He was also the one to describe a polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial sphere. In 1760, John Harrison invented the chronometer H-4 and later in 1884 for the international meridian conference to adopt the Greenwich meridian as zero meridian. Geography began to be an academic discipline taught in universities in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are numerous geographers out there who have made immense contributions to the various fields of geography. Few of them are:
- Eratosthenes (276BC - 194BC) : This geographer is well known for his calculation of the size of the earth
- Strabo (64/63 BC-c. AD 24): Strabo is a geographer who wrote one of the first books outlining geographical study. The book is called Geographica and is quite reputed.
- Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594): This geographer was known for his innovative skills and invention of the Mercator projection.
- Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859): Alexander von Humboldt was the founder of the sub field biogeography and is considered the father of modern geography.
- Carl Ritter (1779-1859): This geographer is known as one of the fathers of modern geography too.
- William Morris Davis (1850-1934): The cycle of erosion was developed by him and he became the father of American geography.
- Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845-1918): He wrote the principles of human geography and was the founder of the French school of geopolitics.
- Carl O. Sauer (1889-1975) : Carl O. Sauer is a significant cultural geographer
- Yi-Fu Tuan (1930) : Yi-Fu Tuan was an a Chinese-American scholar who is responsible for beginning humanistic geography
- David Harvey (1935): This Marxist geographer is the author of theories on urban and spatial geography.
- Nigel Thrift (1949) : Nigel thrift was the geographer who is known for the origination of the non-representational theory
- Ellen Churchill Semple (1863-1932): She is widely known for being the United States first female geographer and influencing many.
Some important geographical discoveries include:
- In the year 1912, Amundsen discovered the south pole
- In 1494 Cabot discovered New Foundland.
- Captain Cook is responsible for discovering the Hawaiian isles in 1770
- In 1498, Christopher Columbus discovered South America and in 1492 he came across the West Indies.
- Ferdinand de Lesseps came up with the plan of the Suez Canal and had the work be completed.
- The rules in the motion of the planets are discovered in 1609 by Kepler.
- Peary, Robert was the first person to reach the North Pole in the year 1909.
- Vasco da Gama travelled across the Cape of Good Hope and discovered the sea route to India in the year 1498
Geography is one area which is continuously broadening. The scope for new discoveries is truly endless as new thing keep coming up. With never ending prospects, the field is truly incredible.