Geography is as old as mankind. In the olden days people carried out long journey by land route and sea route.
These travelers and conquerors on their return from their journey related accounts of their travel in the form of stories or poems.
They were also successful in drawing charts and pictures of such travels and they also acquired knowledge about the natural features and physical features of the earth. The description of such journeys always included the description of various rivers, mountains, forests etc. and the difficulties the travelers had to face during their journey.
Geography is a broad based knowledge of all these things. Some notable personalities who contributed to the study of geography include Pythagoras (a great Egyptian traveler), Herodotus (known as father of geography, who gave the well known epithet, “Egypt is the gift of Nile”), Plato, Aristotle, Alexander. In the early times geography as an independent subject had no place in curriculum. Therefore geography was defined by these geographers as the description of the earth.
Aristotle explained eclipses and gave a concept of spherical form of the earth. Bacon revived this concept. Marco Polo who accompanied his father Nicola and his uncle Miffed in their journey to China was the first traveler to have traced a route across the whole length of Asia.
He had also named and described the Kingdoms that he had seen. In the field of cartography and Astronomy Prince Henry (fifth son of King John I) occupies an unparalleled position.
The first scientific volume of Geography was written by N. Carpenter (English Geographer). It was only in 17th century that Geography was included in the school curriculum because of its practical utility in navigation.
Bernhardus Varenius published Geographic Genaralis in 1650 in which he pointed out a dualism in geography. Geography deals with a process and a phenomenon which is purely physical in nature and it also considers the social cultural phenomenon. He died at a young age of 28 in 1650 and after him Immanual Kant made an effort to find a foundation for geography within the frame work of other sciences.
He grouped the knowledge on the basis of object of study as (i) systematic sciences (e.g. Botany, geology, sociology etc.) (a) Historical sciences (e.g. History, Pol.Sc. etc.) and (iii) Geographical sciences.
Geographical sciences dealt with the study of things that are associated in space. A philosophical foundation was provided to geography by Kant. The substance of geography was molded into a scientific form by Baron Von Humboldt. While giving a description of areas he had given a comparison of these areas with other lands and in this way he set the tone for scientific geography.
The invention of ‘isotherms’ to compare temperatures is recorded in his name Carl Ritter (a German philosopher) has divided the earth into natural regions and showed each unit as a whole interrelated area complex of elements.
This later on became a model for regional presentation “Geography is the comparative study of Earth Regions”. In the subject matter of geography we find a similarity and contrast of the nature study.
Various factors of nature are responsible for the development of art, literature, religion, history, philosophy etc. Study of geography is not therefore limited to inanimate part of the nature. It has to do with the animate beings of this earth.
In the Nineteenth century both views were prevalent, i.e. geography is a pure science and geography as the study of Environmental influences. Later on in this century Fairgrieve while defining geography stated that, the function of geography is to train future citizens to imagine accurately the conditions of the world stage and in this way to help them to think about political and social problems of the world.
The geography with which we are concerned today is modern geography and it is the result of various stages of development. The ‘ present day geography is no more confined to cramming of certain things/facts. The element of scientific study has taken full control of the study of geography.
Modern geography is now considered to be a separate science requiring a detailed study of the territories of the world. The modern geography is considered as a unifying science, for its study it derives raw material from other sciences.