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Definition of Geography

A Basic Overview of the Discipline of Geography

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Since the beginning of humankind, the study of geography has captured the imagination of the people. In ancient times, geography books extolled tales of distant lands and dreamed of treasures. The ancient Greeks created the word "geography" from the roots "ge" for earth and "grapho" for "to write." These people experienced many adventures and needed a way to explain and communicate the differences between various lands. Today, researchers in the field of geography still focus on people and cultures (cultural geography), and the planet earth (physical geography).

The features of the earth are the domain of physical geographers and their work includes research about climates, the formation of landforms, and plant and animal distribution. Working in closely related areas, the research of physical geographers and geologists often overlaps.

Religion, languages, and cities are a few of the specialties of cultural (also known as human) geographers. Their research into the intricacies of human existence is fundamental to our understanding of cultures. Cultural geographers want to know why various groups practice certain rituals, speak in different dialects, or organize their cities in a particular way.

Geographers plan new communities, decide where new highways should be placed, and establish evacuation plans. Computerized mapping and data analysis is known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a new frontier in geography. Spatial data is gathered on a variety of subjects and input onto a computer. GIS users can create an infinite number of maps by requesting portions of the data to plot.

There's always something new to research in geography: new nation-states are created, natural disasters strike populated areas, the world's climate changes, and the Internet brings millions of people closer together. Knowing where countries and oceans are on a map is important but geography is much more than the answers to trivia questions. Having the ability to geographically analyze allows us to understand the world in which we live.

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