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Geography 101

An Overview of Geography


Group of schoolchildren using atlas together
John Slater/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images
Updated May 16, 2014
The science of geography is likely the oldest of all sciences. Geography is the answer to the question that the earliest humans asked, "What's over there?" Exploration and the discovery of new places, new cultures, and new ideas have always been basic components of geography.

Thus, geography is often called the "mother of all sciences" as studying other people and other places led to other scientific fields such as biology, anthropology, geology, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, among others. (See other Definitions of Geography)

Divisions of Geography

Today, geography is commonly divided into two major branches - 1) cultural geography (also called human geography) and 2) physical geography.

Cultural geography is the branch of geography dealing with human culture and its impact on the earth. Cultural geographers study languages, religion, foods, building styles, urban areas, agriculture, transportation systems, politics, economies, population and demographics, and more.

Physical geography is the branch of geography dealing with the natural features of the earth, the home of humans. Physical geography looks at the water, air, animals, and land of the planet earth (i.e. everything that is part of the four spheres - the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere.) Physical geography is closely related to geography's sister science - geology - but physical geography focuses more on the landscapes at the surface of the earth and not what is inside our planet.

Other key areas of geography include regional geography (which involves the in-depth study and knowledge of a particular region and its cultural as well as its physical characteristics) and geographic technologies like GIS (geographic information systems) and GPS (global positioning system).

An important system for dividing the subject of geography is known as the Four Traditions of Geography.

History of Geography

The history of geography as a scientific discipline can be traced back to the Greek scholar Eratosthenes. It was further developed in the modern era by Alexander von Humboldt and from there, you can trace the history of geography in the United States.

Also see the Timeline of Geographic History.

Studying Geography

Since the late 1980s, when the subject of geography was not well-taught throughout the United States, there has been a revival in geographic education. Thus, today many primary, secondary, and university students are choosing to learn more about geography.

There are many resources online available to learn about studying geography, including one article about earning a college degree in geography. While at the university, be sure to explore career opportunities through internships in geography.

Great Studying Geography Resources:

Careers in Geography

Once you start studying geography, you'll want to look into various careers in geography so don't miss this article specifically about Jobs in Geography.

Joining a geographic organization is also helpful as you pursue a geographic career.

Staying Up-To-Date

Finally, be sure to subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter to stay up-to-date about the world of geography because the world is always changing!

As well, you may be interested in my 13-week free email overview of geography course.

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