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The Geographer (1668-69), by Johannes Vermeer The Geographer.jpg
The Geographer (1668-69), by Johannes Vermeer

A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society, including how society and nature interacts. The Greek prefix "geo" means "earth" and the Greek suffix, "graphy," meaning "description," so a geographer is someone who studies the earth. The word "geography" is a Middle French word that is believed to have been first used in 1540. [1]


Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography. Geographers do not study only the details of the natural environment or human society, but they also study the reciprocal relationship between these two. For example, they study how the natural environment contributes to human society and how human society affects the natural environment.

In particular, physical geographers study the natural environment while human geographers study human society and culture. Some geographers are practitioners of GIS (geographic information system) and are often employed by local, state, and federal government agencies as well as in the private sector by environmental and engineering firms.

The paintings by Johannes Vermeer titled The Geographer and The Astronomer are both thought to represent the growing influence and rise in prominence of scientific enquiry in Europe at the time of their painting in 1668–69.

Areas of study

There are three major fields of study, which are further subdivided:

The National Geographic Society identifies five broad key themes for geographers:

See also

Related Research Articles

Human geography The study of cultures, communities and activities of peoples of the world

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that is associated and deals with humans and their relationships with communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across locations. It analyzes patterns of human social interaction, their interactions with the environment, and their spatial interdependencies by application of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Physical geography Study of processes and patterns in the natural environment

Physical geography is one of the two fields of geography. Physical geography is the branch of natural science which deals with the processes and patterns in the natural environment such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the domain of human geography.

Social science Academic disciplines concerned with society and the relationships between individuals in society

Social science is the branch of science devoted to the study of societies and the relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century. In addition to sociology, it now encompasses a wide array of academic disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, human geography, linguistics, management science, media studies, political science, psychology, and history.

Political ecology

Political ecology is the study of the relationships between political, economic and social factors with environmental issues and changes. Political ecology differs from apolitical ecological studies by politicizing environmental issues and phenomena.

In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics, human impact characteristics, and the interaction of humanity and the environment. Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.

Environmental determinism

Environmental determinism is the study of how the physical environment predisposes societies and states towards particular development trajectories. Jared Diamond, Jeffrey Herbst, Ian Morris, and other social scientists sparked a revival of the theory during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This "neo-environmental determinism" school of thought examines how geographic and ecological forces influence state-building, economic development, and institutions. Many scholars underscore that this approach was used to encourage colonialism and eurocentrism, and devalued human agency in non-Western societies, whereas modern figures like Diamond have instead used the approach as an explanation that rejects racism.

Human ecology Study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments

Human ecology is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments. The philosophy and study of human ecology has a diffuse history with advancements in ecology, geography, sociology, psychology, anthropology, zoology, epidemiology, public health, and home economics, among others.

Landscape Visible features of a land area

A landscape is the visible features of an area of land, its landforms, and how they integrate with natural or man-made features. A landscape includes the physical elements of geophysically defined landforms such as (ice-capped) mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of land use, buildings, and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions. Combining both their physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect a living synthesis of people and place that is vital to local and national identity.

History of geography Aspect of history

The history of geography includes many histories of geography which have differed over time and between different cultural and political groups. In more recent developments, geography has become a distinct academic discipline. 'Geography' derives from the Greek γεωγραφία – geographia, literally "Earth-writing", that is, description or writing about the Earth. The first person to use the word geographia was Eratosthenes. However, there is evidence for recognizable practices of geography, such as cartography (map-making), prior to the use of the term.

Cultural landscape Landscape, which is permanently embossed by humans

Cultural landscape is a term used in the fields of geography, ecology, and heritage studies, to describe a symbiosis of human activity and environment. As defined by the World Heritage Committee, it is the "cultural properties [that] represent the combined works of nature and of man" and falls into three main categories:

  1. "a landscape designed and created intentionally by man"
  2. an "organically evolved landscape" which may be a "relict landscape" or a "continuing landscape"
  3. an "associative cultural landscape" which may be valued because of the "religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element."

Behavioral geography is an approach to human geography that examines human behavior using a disaggregate approach. Behavioral geographers focus on the cognitive processes underlying spatial reasoning, decision making, and behavior. In addition, behavioral geography is an ideology/approach in human geography that makes use of the methods and assumptions of behaviorism to determine the cognitive processes involved in an individual's perception of or response and reaction to their environment.

Historical geography

Historical geography is the branch of geography that studies the ways in which geographic phenomena have changed over time. It is a synthesizing discipline which shares both topical and methodological similarities with history, anthropology, ecology, geology, environmental studies, literary studies, and other fields. Although the majority of work in historical geography is considered human geography, the field also encompasses studies of geographic change which are not primarily anthropogenic. Historical geography is often a major component of school and university curricula in geography and social studies. Current research in historical geography is being performed by scholars in more than forty countries.

Cultural geography

Cultural geography is a subfield within human geography. Though the first traces of the study of different nations and cultures on Earth can be dated back to ancient geographers such as Ptolemy or Strabo, cultural geography as academic study firstly emerged as an alternative to the environmental determinist theories of the early 20th century, which had believed that people and societies are controlled by the environment in which they develop. Rather than studying pre-determined regions based upon environmental classifications, cultural geography became interested in cultural landscapes. This was led by the "father of cultural geography" Carl O. Sauer of the University of California, Berkeley. As a result, cultural geography was long dominated by American writers.

Outline of Earth sciences Hierarchical outline list of articles related to Earth sciences

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Earth science:

The following outline is provided as a topical overview of science:

Five themes of geography educational tool for teaching geography

The five themes of geography are an educational tool for teaching geography. The five themes were published in 1984 and widely adopted by teachers, textbook publishers, and curriculum designers in the United States. Most American geography and social studies classrooms have adopted the five themes in teaching practices, as they provide "an alternative to the detrimental, but unfortunately persistent, habit of teaching geography through rote memorization".

Branches of science Overview the branches of science

The branches of science, also referred to as sciences, "scientific fields", or "scientific disciplines," are commonly divided into three major groups:

Geography Science that studies the lands, the features, the inhabitants and the phenomena of the Earth

Geography is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes. Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Outline of geography Hierarchical outline list of articles related to geography

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to geography:

The social sciences are the sciences concerned with societies, human behaviour, and social relationships.


  1. "geography (n.)" (Web article). Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. n.d. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  2. "Geography Education @". 2008-10-24. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2013-07-16.

Further reading