Subject Overview B (e.g. Geography)

Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that foremost seeks to understand the Earth and all of its human and natural complexities. The word geography is derived from the ancient Greek word geographia, which literally translates as the “earth description”. In essence, geography is the study of the physical features of the earth and it’s atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities. 

The ancient Greeks developed an understanding of where their homeland was located in relation to other places, what their own and other places were like, and how people and environments were distributed. From the Greeks’ inception of geography, these concepts have been central to the subject ever since. The ancient Greek philosopher, Anaximander, who is said to have invented the gnonom, pioneered the first ever instrument used to measure latitude – an angular distance of a place north or south of the earth’s equator. With the invention of the gnonom, Anaximander was able to create a map of the world, which contributed greatly to the advancement of the subject of geography. 

The subject of geography can be separated into several branches. These branches include physical geography, human geography, and integrated geography. Physical geography is the study of geography as an Earth science, and can be separated into the following categories: biogeology, climatology and meteorology, coastal geography, environmental management, geodesy, geomorphology, glaciology, hydrology and hydrography, landscape ecology, oceanography, pedology, and palaeography. In contrast to physical geography, human geography is based on the study of patterns and processes that shape human society. This strand of geography encompasses cultural, developmental, economic, health, historical and time, political and geopolitical, religious, social, transportation, tourism, and urban geography. In comparison to physical and human geography, integrated geography seeks to bridge the gap between both subjects. Integrated geography came about due to the rapidly changing relationship between humanity and the environment due to globalisation and technological change.  

The advancements of technology over the past two centuries have had a huge impact upon the subject of geography, leading to the development of geomatics. Geomatics is the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic information. In the western world, geography went through four major phases during the 20th century: environmental determinism, regional geography, qualitative revolution, and critical geography.


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