Student Blog: Is Geography a Science?

Common Misconceptions: #1

“Geography is not Science.”

The concept of science being associated with labs and beakers has long been maintained in our society and mindset that others often find it hard to accept that subjects that do not explicitly work with them can not be considered a science.

One of its biggest victims being Geography.

Geography. What do you imagine when the word Geography is mention? Maps and rocks, right? 

Well, whiles maps and rocks are indisputable parts of Geography, it is important to understand that there are many aspects that fall under the umbrella term “Geography”. 

The main reason some people have trouble understanding the complete scope of the discipline of Geography because, unlike most other disciplines, Geography is not defined by one particular topic. Instead, Geography is concerned with many different topics—people, culture, politics, settlements, plants, landforms, and much more. There are over 10 subdivisions that fall under this overarching term.

Isn’t it quite concerning how neglected they are? 

Brief History

According to National Geographic Society, the term “Geography” comes to us from the ancient Greeks, who needed a word to describe the writings and maps that were helping them make sense of the world in which they lived. 

In Greek, geo means “earth” and –graphy means “to write.”  Using Geography, 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.

Whilst the Greeks were not the first nor the only society to use Geography to acquire knowledge, they developed very detailed and intricate maps of areas in and around Greece, including parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. More importantly, they also raised questions about how and why different human and natural patterns came into being on Earth’s surface, and why variations existed from place to place. The effort to answer these questions about patterns and distribution led them to figure out that the world was round, to calculate Earth’s circumference, and to develop explanations of everything from the seasonal flooding of the Nile River to differences in population densities from place to place.

The period of time between the 15th and 17th centuries is known in the West as the Age of Exploration or the Age of Discovery. During this time, the study of Geography regained popularity in Europe thus leading to the invention of the printing press in the mid-1400s. This helped spread Geographic knowledge by making maps and charts widely available leading to improvements in shipbuilding and navigation facilitated more exploring, greatly improving the accuracy of maps and geographic information.

Geography had become an important part of other academic disciplines, such as chemistry, economics, and philosophy. Moreover, every academic subject has some geographic connection.

So, when did the public view on Geography and its importance cease? 

Human Geography

Probably the most popularise subdivision of Geography and where its iconic “Map” association comes from, Human Geography -by definition from National Geographic society- is concerned with the distribution and networks of people and cultures on Earth’s surface.  The examine how human culture interacts with the natural environment, and the way that locations and places can have an impact on people.

This entail maps and navigation, continents and countries, oceans and seas. In fact, geographers who study maps and navigation belong to a sub-discipline called Behavioural Geography. 

Many human geographers interested in the relationship between humans and the environment work in the subdisciplines of cultural Geography and political Geography, these include governments, religious organizations, and trade partnerships. They often intercept and its boundaries can be blurry. 

In simple words, Human Geography is a Social Science, much like Sociology and Psychology. And similarly, to those subjects, it allows as to have a deeper understanding of different cultures, way of lives, countries and organisations. All of these factors allow us to interact and live the current diverse life that we do and learn from each other. 

Physical Geography

Physical Geography is the study of the natural features and processes of the Earth. This is the aspect of Geography that birthed the belief that Geography solely includes rocks and erosion. 

Again, whilst true, it covers a broader spectrum of topics and subdivisions. Physical Geographers tend to study seasons, climate, atmosphere, soil, streams, landforms, and oceans. This covers the fields of geomorphology, glaciology, pedology, hydrology, climatology, biogeography, and oceanography. 

So whiles Human Geography is a Social Science, Physical Geography is considered a Natural Science, as it encompasses subjects such as Biology and Chemistry. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, what I am trying to express is that although it doesn’t fit under one certain bracket, Geography is very much a just as much as a Science as Biology, Chemistry and Physics.  It deserves just as much recognition as them, I personally will continue to advocate for this. 

Written by Xhara at Dulwich Girls

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