Geography is that branch of knowledge which links the study of natural world to that of society. It is the frame work of various fields of study which cover origin and development of universe, land scrapes and its natural environment and pressure created over them, the global and local changes in the world and how and upto what extent the society is contributing in these changes. In this section we are going to cover all these above mentioned aspects in details.
Greek Scholar Eratosthenes is first man to discuss about Geography. It’s the combination of two Greek words and Geo means earth and graphy” means write. Thus, geography means to write about the Earth or “earth descriptions”. Various other geographers defined Geography as follows:
In Classical Period
- Pythagoras, a great Greek philosopher and mathematician, was the first to say that the Earth is spherical and revolves around the sun.
- Herodotus Greek historian is known as the “Father of history”. He explained the deposition of silt in the Nile delta.
- Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) another Greek philosopher explained the eclipses.
- Eratosthenes (276 – 194 B.C) a Greek poet, mathematician observing the angle of the noon day Sun at Sydnee and at Alexandria.
- Hipparchus (190 – 120 B.C.) was perhaps the greatest of the Greek astronomers.
- Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.). He wrote the book ‘Geography’ and he described system of latitudes and longitudes. He was a cartographer and he evolved the science of map-making.
- Bernhardus Varenius (1622-1650) first recognised the need for organisation of geographical knowledge. He wrote Geographia Generalis, the most highly regarded treatise on geography for more than a century into two – part – general (now called systematic) and special (also called regional) which identified regions according to the interactions between human and environmental processes.
- Immanual Kant (1724-1804) was also a German philosopher, is considered by many to be one of most influential thinkers of modern times. He tried to find a
foundation for geography within the framework of other science. According to him, all knowledge can be organised into three groups according to the object of study.
- Baron Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) a German naturalist and explorer, moulded the substance of geography into a scientific form. He was interested in all aspects of natural history and has been described by Charles Darwin as “the greatest scientific traveler that ever lived”. He invented the “isotherms” to compare temperatures.
- Carl Ritter (1779-1859) A German geographer is considered the founder of modern geographic study. He stressed the importance of using all the sciences in the study of geography. His most important work Die Erdkunde (Earth Science) emphasized the influence of physical environment on human activity. He divided the Earth into natural regions and showed each unit as a whole interrelated complex of elements. His plan of study became the model for regional study and presentation.
- Ellsworth Huntington (1876-1947), an American geographer and explorer, was noted particularly for his study of the effects of climate on human heredity and civilization. The human aspect was neglected to a great extent. His approach to geographic study is known as determinism in which humans are passive agents while the physical environment is active.
- Vidal de la Blanche advocated the opposite theory of determinism, which is sometimes known as possibilism, in which humans are active agents, at liberty to choose between a wide range in environmental possibilities.
Branches of Geography
During the 20th century, more attention has been paid to systematic studies of geographical data. Phenomena have combined to make geography one of the first disciplines to fulfil a bridging function between the natural and social science. As a result, the branches of geographical inquiry fall into three major areas, studies associated with the regional concept, the major systematic branches of human geography, and physical geography.
This is the most important branch of geography. The superstructure of the discipline of geography is built upon it. Its studies relief, soil and structure of the Earth. It is divided into a number of branches making the subject matter of geography more comprehensive.
- Geomorphology studies the Earth’s structure, the rocks that make up the Earth, relief features like mountains and plains and their evolution.
- Geology is the science of the study of rocks, and is helpful in the study of glaciers.
- Glaciology is concerned with the study of glaciers.
- Seismology is the study of earthquakes and their bearings on the internal structure of the Earth.
- Hydrology is the study of the characteristics of rivers, lakes fluvial morphology, fluctuation of water table and underground water resources, development and change of coastal features.
- Oceanography is the branch of hydrology. It is the study of the ocean, tides waves and the ocean floor.
- Climatology studies the causes and distribution of temperature and winds, rainfall and runoff weather and climate.
- Pedology is the study of soil science. Soil, which is formed due to the result of complex physical and chemical reaction of parent rock materials, needs the support of other sciences like chemistry, geology and biology.
- Biogeography studies the distribution of flora (plant) and fauna (animal) in different parts of the world.
- Paleography is the study of physical geography in the past geological ages. It studies the distribution of land and sea through successive geological times.
Human geography, also known as a branch of the modern geography, deals with the evolution of human beings i.e, changing distribution and special organisation of a variety of human characteristics, ranging from great urban centres built by man to geographical diffusion of specific technical innovations in agriculture. By applying geographical methods and techniques of analysis to such feature the knowledge accumulated in other social studies – history, politics, economics, and sociology – may be seen in a new light and often extended considerably. It is accepted that it is not the physical environment alone that determines human ability to make the best use of the natural sources. It is divided into following sub fields to make the study more comprehensive:
- Economic Geography: It deals with man’s activities in improving his material through economic production, exchange distribution and consumption of useful goods and services, that human groups and their members need.
- Cultural Geography: This is also known as social geography. It deals with the cultural aspects of human’s habitat, clothing, food, shelter, skills, tools, language,
religions, social organisation and his outlook.
- Historical Geography: It describes geographical picture of a region or area. It gives us important clues in understanding of the regions as it is viewed at present.
- Anthrogeography: Discuses the distribution of human communities on the Earth in contence of their geographical environment.
- Demography: Studies the different aspects of population like birth rate, death rate, age composition. It also deals with the socio-economic composition of the population and sex composition.
- Settlement Geography: It studies about the size, form and function of settlement of human beings and define their historic growth.
- Agricultural Geography: Studies about farms and farming systems have developed in particular areas and how they are different or similar too the farms and farming systems of other areas.
- Urban Geography: Study of urban Geography is based on the concepts of location interaction and accessibility as well as distribution and movements of populations.
- Political Geography: In study about the government states and countries. It studies human social activities which is concerned to the location and boundaries of cities, nations and groups of nations.
- Cartography: It is the science and art of drawing maps and charts on selected
- Mathematical Geography: It is almost similar of maps and interpretation and also describes statistical data.
- Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS): The techniques of remote sensing and GIS plays an important role in the study of geographic problems.
Systematic and Regional Geography
Systematic Geography, we choose any geographical factor and study its distribution for the whole world. Relief, drainage, climate, vegetation, soil, minerals wealth, agriculture, industry, transport, trade and commerce and population are some of the important geographical elements. These elements are studied separately with reference to a particular area. This method of studying geography is also known as ‘Topical approach’. This is known as General Geography also.
Regional Geography area as a whole first aims at identifying geographical factors or components of any area. Regional geography helps us in identifying the region. For example, if we take Ganga plain, Chhota Nagpur Platiau. or Assam Velley, rather than taking whole of India and study their location, relief, drainage, climate, soils, vegetation mineral wealth, agriculture, industry, transport, trade, population. In regional geography, the main emphasis is on the region.