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History and Basic Concepts
     What is Geography?
Geography is “the science that studies the
distribution of and relationships between
features found on the earth’s surface
places where we live or travel".
The central issue in Geography evolves
around the character of places, their
similarities, and differences
Erastothenes, an Ancient Greek Scholar
first coined the term "Geography”
 Why is Geography unique among
the subjects we study in college?..1
 It is primarily concerned with how things
 are distributed over the earth’s surface.
 It uses graphics (maps, pictures,
 photography & graphs) and taxonomy
 (classification of things) approach in its
 It plays a part in understanding the
 contemporary world unlike that of any
 other field of study.
 Why is Geography unique among
the subjects we study in college?..2
 Geography is not defined by its subject
 matter (the things it studies) but rather the
 method it adopts to study those materials.
 Geographers adopt an interdisciplinary
 (holistic) approach to study things &
 processes on the earth
 Geographic Study focuses on the inter-
 relationships between various phenomena
 found on the earth’s surface
Human habitat & Geographic

The human habitat is made up of:
 A natural environment: comprising
 natural features e.g. trees, rivers,
 weather, etc.

 A cultural environment: consisting of
 products of human civilization e.g.
 schools, cities, cars, computers and
 Major sub-disciplines in Physical
      & Human Geography
Geography            PHYSICAL   HUMAN
integrates a wide
variety of subject
Almost any area of
human knowledge
can be examined
from a spatial
The main divisions
are Physical and
Human Geography
Physical Geography            Human Geography
Rocks and Minerals            Population
Landforms                     Settlements
Soils                         Economic Activities
Animals                       Transportation
Plants                        Recreational Activities
Water                         Religion
Atmosphere                    Political Systems
Rivers & other water bodies   Social Traditions
Environment                   Human Migration
Climate and Weather           Agricultural Systems
Oceans                        Urban Systems
          Holistic Synthesis

Geographic studies
involves a holistic

Holistic synthesis
connects knowledge
from a variety of
academic fields in
both Human and
Physical Geography.
The Holistic Approach – strengths
        and weaknesses
The holistic nature of Geography is both a
strength and a weakness.
Geography's strength comes from its
ability to connect functional
interrelationships that are not normally
noticed in narrowly defined fields of
The holistic approach is weak because
holistic understanding is often too simple
and misses important details.
     Historical development of
The first truly geographical studies occurred
more than 4,000 years ago when explorers began
traveling to new lands.
The Chinese, Egyptian, and Phoenician
civilizations were beginning to explore the places
and spaces within and outside their homelands.
The earliest evidence of geographic explorations
comes from the archaeological discovery of a
Babylonian clay tablet map that dates back to
2300 BC.
 Early Greek Geographers…1

The Greeks were the first civilization to
practice a form of Geography that was
more than mere map making

Greek philosophers and scientists were
interested in learning about spatial nature
of human and physical features found on
the Earth.
Early Greek Geographers…2
Ancient Greek scholar Eratosthenes first
coined the word "Geography".
The term “Geography” is composed of two
Greek words
– Geo      = Earth and …
– Graphien = to write.

The Greeks defined Geography as
“Description of the Earth
 Early Greek Geographers…3
Eratosthenes (circa 276 - 194 BC) calculated
the equatorial circumference of the earth to
be 40,233 kilometers using simple
geometric relationships.
This primitive calculation was unusually
accurate. Measurements of the Earth using
modern satellite technology have
computed the circumference to be 40,072
Eratosthenes coined the term “Geography”
Early Greek Geographers - …4
Aristotle (circa 384 - 322 BC) hypothesized
and scientifically demonstrated that the
Earth had a spherical shape using
evidence from observations of lunar

Herodotus (circa 484 - 425 BC) wrote a
number of volumes that described the
Human and Physical Geography of the
various regions of the Persian Empire.
   Early Roman Geographers
Greek accomplishments in Geography were
passed on to the Romans.
Strabo (circa 64 BC - 20 AD) wrote a 17
volume series called "Geographia“ in which he
described the Cultural Geographies of various
societies found from Britain to as far east as
India, and south to Ethiopia and as far north as
  Early Roman Geographers
Ptolemy (circa 100 - 178 AD) published
Geographike hyphegesis or "Guide to
Geography" that summarized much of the
Greek and Roman geographic knowledge
Ptolemy also made 3 important
contributions to modern Geography:
– created three different methods for projecting
  the Earth's surface on a map,
– calculated coordinate locations for some 8,000
  places on the Earth, and ...
– developed the concepts of geographical
  latitude and longitude
 Early World map based on Ptolemy’s

This early world map was constructed using techniques
developed by Ptolemy. The map is organized with crisscrossing
lines of latitude and longitude.
Renaissance: German Geographers
Benhardus Varenius (1622-1650) published an
important geographic reference titled
Geographia generalis (General Geography:
1650). He used direct observations and primary
measurements to present new ideas about
geographic knowledge.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) also divided
Geography into a number of sub-disciplines. He
recognized the following six branches: Physical,
Mathematical, Moral, Political, Commercial, and
Theological Geography.
Renaissance: German Geographers
 Alexander von Humboldt published
 Kosmos (1844) which examines the
 Geology and Physical Geography of the
 Fredrich Ratzel theorized that the
 distribution and culture of the Earth's
 various human populations was strongly
 influenced by the natural environment.
 Carl Ritter (1780-1859) developed the
 concept of Regional Geography
 Basic Concepts: Environmental
Environmental Determinism explains that human
beings are the products of the environment where
they live. The environment determines the future
of people. E.g. coastal people become fishermen,
those who live in forested areas become loggers
& farmers etc.
Geographers who supported the Environmental
determinism concept included:
 – German scholars - Carl Ritter & Friedrich
 – American scholar - Ms. Ellen Churchill Semple.
  Basic concepts - Possibilism
Possibilism explains that the environment does
not dictate what people would become. Rather,
the environment offers opportunities for people to
become what they choose to be.
The French Geographer: Paul Vidal de la Blanche
and others opposed the determinism idea.
Instead, they suggested that human beings were
a dominant force shaping the environment.
The idea that humans were modifying the physical
environment was championed in the United
States by George Perkins Marsh who wrote - Man
and Nature or The Earth as Modified by Human
Action, first published in 1864.
  Four Traditions of Geography
In 1964, William Pattison suggested that modern
Geography was composed of four academic
– Earth Science Tradition: the study of natural
  phenomena from a spatial perspective. This
  tradition is best described as Physical
– Culture-Environment Tradition: the geographical
  study of human interactions with the
– The Location Tradition: Geography study of the
  spatial distribution of natural and cultural
  features on the earth’s surface
– Area Studies (analyses) Tradition: the
  geographical study of an area on the Earth at
  either the local, regional, or global scale.
   Jobs for Geographers
Teaching Geography or Social Studies
Working as a Surveyor,
Employed in the Foreign Service.
Environmental Scientist at DEP
Town, City, Urban and/or Regional Planner.
Marketing researcher
Travel Agents or Tour Guides.
Cartographer,(USGS) or Defense Mapping Agency,
Enumeration Officer.
Officer in the Navy, Army of Air force
Resource Managers
GIS Specialists
Professor in a University
Consultant (on environmental, landscape issues)

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