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History of Geography

Discover the fascinating history of the discipline of geography. Learn about the explorers and academics who created the maps and ideas that led us to where we are today.
  1. Christopher Columbus (5)

Becoming Geographers
An interview with prolific geographer Dr. Charles Gritzner, who provides his advice on the discipline of geography.

Harm de Blij
A biography of geographer Harm de Blij along with information about his division of the world into realms, regions and concepts.

Geography at Harvard
In 1948 the president of Harvard University declared geography to be not a university subject and the department was disbanded. What happened then and is geography still taught at Harvard?

The Ottoman Empire
Learn about the Ottoman Empire, one of the world's largest and longest-lasting empires. The Ottoman Empire stretched across three continents for hundreds of years.

Biography of Alfred Wegener
A biographical sketch of Alfred Wegener, the scientist who theorized continental drift, plate tectonics, and Pangea.

Geography as a Science
A discussion for the discipline of geography as a science.

The Compass
An overview and history of the compass, from its earliest origins in China to its use today for wayfinding and navigation.

"New" and "Old" Countries
An article discussing the frequent occurrence of place names that are - New - such as New England and England, New York and York.

The Portuguese Empire
Learn all about the Portuguese Empire which spanned the globe just a few hundred years ago.

Important Cities in Black History
The most important cities in African-American history. Learn about the key historical cities of U.S. black history.

U.S. Board on Geographic Names
An overview and history of the United States Board on Geographic Names, which determines the official names of places within the United States.

Top Five Geographic News Events of 2010
While 2010 did not see the creation of any new countries nor did any earth-shattering changes happen to the world map, 2010 was not a silent year in the world of geography. What follows is a listing of the top five geographic news events for 2010, along with a few honorable mentions of events that are likely to continue into 2011.

Lewis and Clark - History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
An overview of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Northwest in the Louisiana Purchase in the early 1800s. Learn about the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its impact on the United States, from the About.com Geography site.

Sir Edmund Hillary - Biography of Sir Edmund Hillary
A biographical sketch of the world's most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who successfully climbed Mount Everest in 1953.

The Mason-Dixon Line - Overivew of Mason-Dixon Line
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Mason-Dixon Line, dividing the north from the south, from your About.com expert Guide to Geography.

Yi-Fu Tuan - A Biography of Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan
A biography of the famous Chinese-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, from the About.com Geography site.

William Morris Davis
William Morris Davis is often called the 'father of American geography' for his work in not only helping to establish geography as an academic discipline but also for his advancement of physical geography and the development of geomorphology.

Alexander von Humboldt
A short biographical overview of the life of the founder of modern geography, Alexander von Humboldt.

The Spanish Empire
A description of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century in the New World of Latin America and South America and Asia - New Castile, New Granada, and New Spain. From your About.com expert Guide to Geography.

Ellen Churchill Semple - A Biography of Geographer Ellen Chur…
Ellen Churchill Semple was America's first influential female geographer. Explore Semple's life and scholarship in this lengthy biographical article from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Ptolemy
The story of the geographical scholar Ptolemy - Claudius Ptolemaeus, from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Prince Henry the Navigator
Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal established his institute at Sagres and expanded geographic knowledge, from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Prester John
In the twelfth century, a mysterious letter began to circulate around Europe. It told of a magical kingdom in the East that was in danger of being overrun by infidels and barbarians. This letter was supposedly written by a king known as Prester John.

Frederick Law Olmstead - Biography of Frederick Law Olmstead
A biographical outline of famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed the grounds of hundreds of famous locations, including Central Park in New York City, from that About.com expert Geography Site.

The International Map of the World
Learn about the huge project to create a standardized map of the world, known also as the Millionth Map, from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Ferdinand Magellan - Biography of Ferdinand Magellan
A biography of the life of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who is credited with circumnavigating the earth.

Geography in the United States - Geography in America

Louisiana Purchase - The History of the Louisiana Purchase
An overview and history of the Louisiana Purchase, including the Lewis and Clark expedition of the Louisiana Purchase. From the About.com expert Geography site.

Islamic Geography
An overview of Islamic geography in the middle ages, from your About.com Guide. Islamic scholars helped provide the information which allowed the discovery and exploration of the New World in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Grand Tour of Europe
The Grand Tour of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was designed to enlighten the young elite of England. Learn about their travels to the European mainland from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Goodbye Dear Atlas - An Essay
An essay reflecting on the changes in geography in the past decade by About.com Guide to Geography Matt Rosenberg.

Eratosthenes - Biography of Eratosthenes
Learn about Eratosthenes, the ancient Greek scholar and head librarian of the Great Library at Alexandria, known today as the father of geography.

Robert Cavelier de la Salle - A Biography of Explorer Robert Cavelier…
A biography of the French explorer Robert Cavelier de la Salle who explored much of the region of the Louisiana Purchase and North America in the seventeenth century.

Cheng Ho - The Chinese Explorer Cheng Ho
The famous eunuch Chinese Admiral explorer Cheng Ho sailed the Indian Ocean with his Treasure Fleet in the 15th century, long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Learn about Cheng Ho from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Carl O. Sauer - A Biography of Geographer Carl Sauer
A biographical overview of cultural geographer Carl Sauer. Carl Sauer led the Berkeley school of cultural geography.

Carl Ritter
A biographical overview of one of the founders of modern geography, Carl Ritter, from your About.com Guide to Geography.

Age of Exploration - A History of the Age of Exploration
An overview of the history of the Age of Exploration and its impact on the geography of the world, from the About.com Geography site.

Amerigo Vespucci
Learn about the man for whom the American continents were named.

Captain James Cook
Learn about the famous 18th Century explorer and his explorations.

History of U.S. Expansion and Boundary Changes
Track the growth of the United States across North America through the variety of treaties, purchases, wars, and Acts of Congress that gave the U.S.A. the geography it has today.

Jonathan Swift on Geography
Jonathan Swift's famous verse about cartography.

Marco Polo
Learn about the life of this great explorer who brought to Europe fanciful tales of Asia.

More Place Names
What country's name means "city of lions"? What country is named for the Latin word for prophesy? Find out the interesting meanings behind these ordinary place names.

Place Names
How did the Amazon River get its name? What did the 17th century governor of Virginia have to do with the naming of Delaware? Find out the meaning behind these and other place names.

Timeline of Geographic History
Gain an appreciation and understanding of the history of geography through this online timeline.

Treaty of Tordesillas
Discover how Portugal wrestled the New World away from Spain and the Pope, making Portuguese the language of Brazil.

Two Schools of Geographic Thought
Geography intern Amanda Briney writes about the history of the two main schools of geographic thought in the United States - the Berkeley School and the Midwest School.

Union Jack
Information and history of the Union Jack flag of the United Kingdom.

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