Introduction to Geography

What does the word geography mean?

The term geography comes from the Greek words "geo" and "graphos", meaning, respectively, Earth and writing. Geography is the scientific study of the Earth's surface, with the aim of describing and analyzing the spatial variation of physical, biological and human phenomena that occur on the surface of the globe.

It is considered one of the oldest sciences developed by Western civilization, bringing its basic concepts outlined in Ancient Greece, where it developed as a science and method of philosophical thinking. At first it was known as Natural History or Natural Philosophy. We can highlight Tales of Miletus, Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, Aristotle, Strabo and Ptolemy as major contributors in the development of geography studies.

Why do we study geography?

Studying geography is a way of understanding the world we live in. Through this study, we can better understand both the place where we live (city, rural area) and the country of which we are part, as well as the other countries of the earth's surface.

Knowledge of geography can also encompass the study of a people, of a civilization over a territory; Ultimately, the relationship between man and nature, mediated by work, resulting in geographical space. Geography is defined as a science that studies the relationship between society and nature. Thus, geographical space is a historical product of human activity.

Geography symbol

The Armillary Sphere is universally consecrated as the symbol of the globe. Likewise, it is also a symbol of geographical studies. Its creator was Eratosthenes, who was also the first scholar to use the word Geography in his work that received that name.

Principles of Geography

In the nineteenth century, with the emergence of geography as a science, it was necessary to define methodological principles, which give it due scientific character. The principles formulated are:

  • Extension - conceived by Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904): every geographical phenomenon has its occurrence in a certain portion of the territory, which can be delimited.
  • Analogy - also called General Geography, exposed by Karl Ritter (1779-1859) and Paul Vidal de La Blache (1845-1918): all geographical phenomena must be compared to others of the same type, to establish similarities and differences and facilitate their understanding.
  • Causality - Formulated by Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859): Every geographical phenomenon has one or more causes, which must be sought and explained.
  • Activity - formulated by Jean Brunhes (1869-1930): Every geographical phenomenon has a dynamic character, so your study must understand its extent and its connection with time, as facts are never isolated.
  • Connectivity or interaction, presented by Jean Brunhes (1869-1930): the facts are not isolated, but inserted in a system of relations, both local and interlocal.