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Definitions of Geography

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Hiker looks at map from rock buttress, sunrise
Philip and Karen Smith/ Iconica/ Getty Images
Many famous geographers and non-geographers have attempted to define the discipline in a few short words. The concept of geography has also changed throughout the ages, making a definition for such a dynamic and all-encompassing subject difficult. With the help of Gregg Wassmansdorf, here are some ideas about geography from throughout the ages:

"The purpose of geography is to provide 'a view of the whole' earth by mapping the location of places." - Ptolemy, 150 CE

"Synoptic discipline synthesizing findings of other sciences through the concept of Raum (area or space)." - Immanuel Kant, c. 1780

"Synthesizing discipline to connect the general with the special through measurement, mapping, and a regional emphasis." - Alexander von Humboldt, 1845

"Man in society and local variations in environment." - Halford Mackinder, 1887

"How environment apparently controls human behavior." - Ellen Semple, c. 1911

"Study of human ecology; adjustment of man to natural surroundings." - Harland Barrows, 1923

"The science concerned with the formulation of the laws governing the spatial distribution of certain features on the surface of the earth." - Fred Schaefer, 1953

"To provide accurate, orderly, and rational description and interpretation of the variable character of the earth surface." - Richard Hartshorne, 1959

"Geography is both science and art" - H.C. Darby, 1962

"To understand the earth as the world of man" - J.O.M. Broek, 1965

"Geography is fundamentally the regional or chorological science of the surface of the earth." - Robert E. Dickinson, 1969

"Study of variations in phenomena from place to place." - Holt-Jensen, 1980

"...concerned with the locational or spatial variation in both physical and human phenomena at the earth's surface" - Martin Kenzer, 1989

"Geography is the study of earth as the home of people" - Yi-Fu Tuan, 1991

"Geography is the study of the patterns and processes of human (built) and environmental (natural) landscapes, where landscapes comprise real (objective) and perceived (subjective) space." - Gregg Wassmansdorf, 1995

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