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Physical world map

The geography , as a writing variant Geography , ( ancient Greek γεωγραφία GeoGraphia derived from from γῆ "earth" and γράφειν Graphein "(be-) write") or geography is concerned with the earth's surface seised science , both in its physical nature as well as a space and place for human life and action. It operates at the interface between the natural sciences , humanities and social sciences .

The subject of geography is the recording, description and explanation of the structures, processes and interactions in the geosphere . The physical, chemical and biological research into their individual phenomena is, however, the subject of other geosciences .


Until the official revision of the German spelling, only the geography spelling was correct. Geography was also permitted from 1996 , although geography was initially listed as the main variant in the official vocabulary and since 2004 none of the spellings has been specified as preferred (the distinction between main and secondary variants has generally been dropped in the official dictionary). In the Duden (27th edition) the variant geography is marked as “Duden Recommendation”. Traditionally, the old spelling is still often used in scientific texts and among experts. The bureau recommended the German Geographical Society in 2003 unanimously, the spelling Geography maintain.


Ancient and Middle Ages

The importance of geographical knowledge, as far as it has historically been handed down, was first recognized by the Greeks in antiquity . It is reported that the natural philosopher Anaximander from Miletus was the first around 550 BC. Outlined a map of the earth and the seas. Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484–424 BC) wrote a variety of geographical reports. The conquests of Alexander the Great opened the gaze of Greek scholars as far as Asia. It emerged itineraries , so descriptions of the roads and lists of stations on the road, and periploi , practical guidebooks for seafarers and merchants, often on Persian or Parthian were based sources.

As long-distance travel increased, so did the attempts to explore the full shape of the world. In addition to physical geography and cultural geography, the beginnings of mathematical geography developed. The circumference of the earth was calculated for the first time by Eratosthenes (approx. 273–194 BC), while Strabo , who lived around the turn of the times, wrote one of the best-preserved geographical works of antiquity today. The astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (approx. 100 to 170) collected topographical knowledge from seafarers and gave instructions for drawing maps . The Romans continued to use the knowledge of the Greeks . During the Middle Ages , geography, like other branches of science, was largely forgotten in Europe . However, new impulses came from the Empire of China and the emerging geography and cartography in medieval Islam .

Albertus Magnus provided early theoretical approaches : In his treatise De natura locorum , he described the dependence of the properties of a place on its geographical location. Subsequently, the Viennese astronomer Georg Tannstetter introduced physical geography into the group of university subjects (1514).

Early modern age

Jan Vermeer: The Geographer

Modern geography was founded by Bartholomäus Keckermann (1572–1608) and Bernhard Varenius (1622–1650). They developed a system of terms that made a distinction between “general geography” (geographia generalis) and “regional geography” or geography (geographia specialis) . They saw peoples, states and places in a spatial, historical and also religious context. At the beginning of the 18th century, Johann Hübner (1668–1731) and Johann Gottfried Gregorii alias MELISSANTES (1685–1770) promoted the spread of geography to large parts of the educated population through their textbooks, thematic lexicons and atlases.

The Age of Enlightenment promoted attempts to explain natural phenomena by scientists such as Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) and Georg Forster (1754–1794). Anton Friedrich Büsching (1724–1793) wrote the eleven-volume New Earth Description with descriptions of the countries and their economies.

Establishment as an independent discipline

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and Carl Ritter (1779-1859) finally established modern scientific geography, whose original regional and landscape research program is based on Herder's cultural theory. In the course of the 19th century, "geographical societies" were founded in many places, while the university institutionalization of the subject was promoted primarily with the establishment of the German Empire .

Ferdinand von Richthofen (1833–1905) defined geography at that time as the “science of the earth's surface and the things and phenomena that are causally related to it”. This geodeterministic view was opposed to the concept of possibilism coined by Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845–1918) and the chorology formulated by Alfred Hettner (1859–1941) . Individual representatives such as Élisée Reclus (1830–1905) made connections to the emerging sociology early on . The emergence of the first national parks , for example, also shows that man's formative influence on his environment was not only known, but also of political importance.

In particular, German geography was ultimately determined by representatives of social Darwinian and völkisch arguments such as Alfred Kirchhoff (1838–1907), Friedrich Ratzel (1844–1904) , who was considered the founder of human geography, and the geomorphologist Albrecht Penck (1859–1945). These views were ultimately applied primarily through geopolitics , as formulated in particular by Halford Mackinder (1861–1947) and Karl Haushofer (1869–1946).

Recent developments

After the Second World War , geographic research in German-speaking countries initially turned to subject areas of relatively low political relevance. Carl Troll (1899–1975), Karlheinz Paffen (1914–1983), Ernst Neef (1908–1984) and Josef Schmithüsen (1909–1984) developed landscape ecology , Hans Bobek (1903–1990) and Wolfgang Hartke (1908–1997) the social geography continues. A geography based more on the requirements of spatial planning , not least based on the works of Walter Christaller (1893-1969), was first established in Sweden by Torsten Hägerstrand (1916-2004) and in the Anglo-American region.

Since the end of the 1960s ( quantitative revolution ), German-speaking geography has also increasingly seen itself as an applied science and has been looking for topics in connection with urban planning , rural development, spatial planning and environmental protection . At the same time, the emergence of a geography that sees itself as critical takes account of this newly assumed socio-political responsibility. Growing specialization in the 20th century resulted in the diversity of today's sub-disciplines and the division between physical geography and human geography .

Classification scheme

The three pillar model of geography

There are various attempts to organize geography schematically. The most significant in today's science is the division into the two large sub-areas of physical geography and human geography, along with an interdisciplinary area as the third "pillar". Various sub-disciplines can be identified in each case, with the sub-areas of physical geography as a whole being relatively strongly integrated into the superordinate scientific disciplines, while those of human geography are in turn closely interlinked.

physical geography

The Physical Geography (or physical geography ) deals primarily with the natural elements and structures of the Earth's surface. The human activity to explain the genesis of the landscape is also dealt with.

Climate geography: climate classification according to Köppen and Geiger

Sub-areas of physical geography include:

Human geography

The human geography (including human geography , rare cultural geography ) deals both with the influence of the people on the geographic area , as well as the influence of space on humans - for example in connection with the spatial distribution of population or assets. Formerly considered as part of the humanities, it has moved closer to the social sciences especially since the 1980s ( spatial turn ) . Hartmut Leser (2001) defines human geography as that "sub-area of ​​general geography that deals with the spatial impact of humans and with the cultural landscape they have designed and their elements in their spatial differentiation and development."

The social geography and cultural geography are considered to be "core areas" of human geography, where they can touch any other sub-disciplines. Sometimes these terms are also used as a synonym for human geography as a whole. The political geography , especially in its former use as geopolitics and military geography is closely woven into the founding history of human geography, but forms an independent field of study today. More sociologically oriented areas of geography provide the population geography , the formation geography and religion geography . Some other sub-disciplines that can be attributed to this range of subjects, are, however, operated in German-speaking only to a small degree or as part of other social science disciplines. These include criminal geography , linguistic geography with dialect geography and elective geography .

Among the classic branches of human geography encompasses those sub-disciplines that deal with the set up by the human built environment deal, so the settlement geography , the geography of rural areas , the urban geography and the transport geography . The latter is partly included in economic geography, which also includes the geography of the primary ( agricultural geography ), secondary ( industrial geography ) and tertiary economic sectors ( commercial geography , tourism geography ) .

Historical geography occupies a special position . Originally primarily concerned with genetic settlement research and thus oriented towards human geography, the subject is now relatively strongly interdisciplinary and, in particular, closely linked to environmental history . Classic areas of application are cultural landscape research, forest history, desertification research or river documentation. The spatiotemporal spread of phenomena is the subject of geographic diffusion research .

Human-environment relationships

Even if geography oriented towards the natural sciences and humanities or social sciences now differ greatly in their methodological approach, there are still overlaps with regard to the issues. Since these primarily concern the consequences of human activity on nature and their repercussions on society, this sub-area , which is closely related to human ecology , was sometimes referred to as physical anthropogeography , but there is no term that is generally used. Geography is also closely integrated into the interdisciplinary research into specific human-environment systems such as mountain , coastal , polar , tropical and desert research .

General and Regional Geography

Subdivision of the geosphere

A traditional division, on the other hand, is that of general geography and regional geography , as exemplified in Alfred Hettner's regional geography scheme . The general geography is accordingly that part of the geography, which deals nomothetically with the geofactors of the earth's surface ( geosphere ). The focus is mostly on a geofactor (e.g. water, soil, climate, etc.) and its interactions with other geofactors. The general geography thus deals with general laws in the entire geosphere. Physical geography and human geography are then only parts of general geography.

Regional geography or regional geography (special geography) is understood according to this subdivision as that part of geography which, idiographically or typologically, deals with certain parts of the earth's surface (geosphere). The focus is therefore on a region , e.g. B. a country or a landscape that is scientifically studied in terms of space and time, abiotic and biotic factors, humans and the interactions. Spatial elements, structures, processes and modes of operation (interactions between the geofactors) are recorded, classified and explained. Regional geography can be subdivided into the individual disciplines of geography (e.g. population geography, settlement and urban geography, biogeography) and also into regional studies , i.e. the idiographic study of individual spatial areas, and landscape studies , the typological study of spatial types.

Criticism: Until well into the 20th century, geography and landscape studies were considered the actual “core” of geography, which gave the subject a certain identity. Works with a corresponding topic will continue to be produced and regional geography will continue to be an essential, self-evident subject of research at major universities, but there are also occasional critical voices who consider regional geography and its scientific significance to be of secondary importance with regard to the terms regional and landscape studies. The Regional geography thus underwent a change of meaning and is concerned to assume instead regions as a research object, with the regionalization process itself. Today it is part of social and economic geography as well as the interdisciplinary field of regional science .

Theoretical and Applied Geography

The Applied Geography , which in the second half of the 20th century as opposed to theoretical geography emerged, provides a normative represents the form of geographic research that finds itself in its areas of expertise. The subject of applied geography is the analysis and planning of spatial structures and processes, as well as the solution of spatial problems. Practical areas of application are spatial planning or environmental protection . In particular, some research areas in physical anthropogeography are normatively oriented towards the paradigms of sustainability and health . Examples are geographic development research , geographic risk research and medical geography .


Under school geography refers to the school in geography , even geography called (in Austria Geography and Economics ), and the associated training for the teaching profession . The central concern of this branch is - as in every discipline - science didactics in its special form as geography didactics . School geography therefore also includes the methodology of systematic reduction, paradigm formation and didactic structure of the subject area in the various school types (creation of curricula and learning content ). In a broader sense, it can also intervene in university teaching itself and also include school cartography , further education , advice and information, and thus become the field of activity of an applied geographer (creation of textbooks , teaching programs , geographical documentation , maps , or specialist advice for the same . and public relations.)



As a “bridging subject” between the natural, human and social sciences, there is generally a great variety of methods in geography, which reflects the range of possible research objects. While the creation of maps and the use of geographical information systems (GIS) can be found in all sub-areas as important presentation and research methods, procedures borrowed from the respective neighboring disciplines are also used.

Comparative geography

The comparative geography was already in the 19th century by Carl Ritter and Oskar Peschel founded. It is an approach that relates two typological categories.


A current methodological sub-area that is becoming increasingly important in geography and can also be assigned to mathematical geography is geoinformatics . She uses computer science methods to deal with geographic issues. Geoinformatics is responsible for:

  • Development, creation and maintenance of geographic information systems (GIS): With them, spatial data is collected, processed, evaluated and mapped.
  • digital cartography : This area is limited to the visualization of spatial data.
  • Remote sensing : Satellite or aviation-based observation of the earth using electromagnetic radiation that is recorded by sensors.
  • Modeling : Idealized replication of real phenomena in order to create forecasts (e.g. climate or runoff models).
  • Statistics : Use of software tools to evaluate data sets with statistical methods (see also: Geostatistics ) .

Aesthetic dimension

The critical geographer Gerhard Hard argued after 1968 that the landscape geography , which has formed the core of classical geography since Alexander von Humboldt, is based on patterns of perception derived from landscape painting. Therefore, those research directions that relate to landscape such as B. Landscape ecology , its object primarily in an aesthetic way, which is only secondarily provided with a scientistic method design. This in turn means that the aesthetic implications within the profession are not consciously reflected on.

Although geography has repeatedly understood and reoriented itself, Gábor Paál sees a continuous feature in the aesthetic basis on which science is based. Accordingly, it has always been a central motive of geographers to explore and understand spatial patterns, in particular those patterns that move in their order of magnitude within the human radius of action: It deals with patterns "of the order of magnitude of what the human Eyes can still see the entire surface of the earth without great effort. ”Approaches that explicitly deal with perceptions of the environment are grouped under perceptual geography.

See also

Portal: Geography  - Overview of Wikipedia content on geography
Portal: Geosciences  - Overview of Wikipedia content on geosciences


Overview and reference works

Technical history and theory

  • Hanno Beck : Geography. European development in texts and explanations. Alber, Freiburg 1973, ISBN 3-495-47262-2 ( Orbis academicus. Problem stories of science in documents and representations. Volume 2/16).
  • Heinz Peter Brogiato: History of German geography in the 19th and 20th centuries. State of research and methodological approaches. In: Schenk, Winfried & Konrad Schliephake (Hrsg.): Allgemeine Geographie. (= Perthes Geographie-Kolleg), Gotha 2005, pp. 41–81.
  • Daniela Dueck: Geography in the ancient world. Zabern, Darmstadt 2013, ISBN 978-3-8053-4610-8 .
  • Ulrich Eisel : The development of anthropogeography from a “spatial science” to a social science. University Library, Kassel 1980.
  • Gerhard Hard : The geography. An epistemological introduction. de Gruyter, Berlin 1973.
  • Hans-Dietrich Schultz: The German-speaking geography from 1800 to 1970. A contribution to the history of its methodology . Self-published d. Geographer. Inst. D. FU Berlin, Berlin 1980.
  • Heiner Dürr / Harald Zepp : Understanding geography. A pilot and work book. Paderborn 2012.
  • Antje Schlottmann / Jeannine Wintzer : Change of worldview: Stories of ideas of geographical thought and action. Bern 2019.

Web links

Commons : Geography  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: Geography  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Geography  - Sources and Full Texts

Associations and institutions

Information offers


  1. ↑ There are major differences in definitions, particularly across linguistic, cultural and temporal boundaries. The Dutch social geography corresponds to the German human or anthropogeography.
  2. What is meant here is a regional science in the broader sense. The “New Regional Geography”, on the other hand, deliberately distinguishes itself from spatial analysis and the regional science associated with it . (See New Regional Geography in the Lexicon of Geography).

Individual evidence

  1. Diercke: Dictionary of General Geography.
  2. Hans Heinrich Blotevogel : Geography . In: E. Brunotte u. a. (Ed.): Lexicon of Geography . Spectrum, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 3-8274-0416-9 , p. 15 .
  3. Geography or Geography? (No longer available online.) Verband Deutscher Schulgeographen eV, February 25, 2003, archived from the original on March 29, 2009 ; Retrieved June 30, 2009 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ Siegmund Günther : History of mathematical teaching in the German Middle Ages up to the year 1525 (Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica; 3). Berlin 1887, p. 256.
  5. Ulrich Eisel : The development of anthropogeography from a "spatial science" to social science . University Library, Kassel 1980; Ulrich Eisel: Individuality as a unit of concrete nature: the cultural concept of geography . In: B. Glaeser, P. Teherani-Krönner (eds.): Human and cultural ecology: Basics, approaches, practice. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1992, pp. 107–151. Hans-Dietrich Schultz: "Heldengeschichten" or: Who (re) established geography, Alexander von Humboldt or Carl Ritter. In: Nitz, Bernhard, Hans-Dietrich Schultz & Marlies Schulz (eds.): 1810-2010: 200 years of geography in Berlin at the University of Berlin (from 1810) Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin (from 1828) University of Berlin ( from 1946) Humboldt University of Berlin (from 1949). (= Berlin Geographical Works 115), Berlin 2010, pp. 1–47.
  6. Schultz, Hans-Dietrich: "Give us a clear definition of geography!" Ferdinand v. Richthofen's efforts to solve a burning problem. In: Nitz, Bernhard, Hans-Dietrich Schultz & Marlies Schulz (eds.): 1810-2010: 200 years of geography in Berlin at the University of Berlin (from 1810) Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin (from 1828) University of Berlin ( from 1946) Humboldt University of Berlin (from 1949). (= Berlin Geographical Works 115), 2. verb. u. exp. Edition. Berlin 2011, pp. 59–97.
  7. ^ Ferdinand von Richthofen : Tasks and methods of today's geography. Academic inaugural address given in the auditorium of Leipzig University on April 27, 1883 , Leipzig 1883.
  8. Ute Wardenga: geography as chorology. On the genesis and structure of Alfred Hettner's construct of geography. (= Geographic Knowledge 100) Stuttgart 1995.
  9. Hans-Dietrich Schultz: Herder and Ratzel: two extremes, one paradigm? In: Erdkunde 52 (1998), Heft 2, pp. 127-143. . Hans-Dietrich Schultz: “If only the earth had more space!” Friedrich Ratzel and his (political) geographical view of the world. In: Mitteilungen der Geographische Gesellschaft München, Vol. 89 , 2007, pp. 3–45. Hans-Dietrich Schultz: Friedrich Ratzel. Bellicistic spatial theorist with a feeling for nature or forerunner of Nazi habitat policy? In: Deimel, Claus; Lentz, Sebastian; Streck, Bernhard (Ed.): In Search of Diversity. Ethnography and geography in Leipzig. Leipzig 2009, pp. 125–142. Hans-Dietrich Schultz: Friedrich Ratzel: (not) a racist? (= Geographical Review - Supplements = Geographical University Manuscripts NF, No. 2). Flensburg 2006
  10. Norman Henniges: "Natural Laws of Culture": The Viennese Geographers and the Origins of the "People and Culture Soil Theory". In: ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. Volume 14, H. 4, 2015, pp. 1309-1351 (online) . Norman Henniges: The track of the ice: a praxeological study of the scientific beginnings of the geologist and geographer Albrecht Penck (1858-1945). (= Contributions to regional geography. Volume 69), Leibniz Institute f. Länderkunde, Leipzig 2017, ISBN 978-3-86082-097-1 , 556 pages (online) . Norman Henniges: Albrecht Penck . In: Ingo Haar , Michael Fahlbusch (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Völkischen Wissenschaften , 2nd edition. Berlin 2017, pp. 570-577.
  11. Wardenga, Ute, Norman Henniges, Heinz Peter Brogiato & Bruno Schelhaas: The Association of German professional geographers. A socio-historical study of the early phase of the DVAG. (= forum ifl 16 (PDF) , Leipzig 2011; Boris Michel (2016): Seeing Spatial Structures. On the Role of Visual Material in the Making of the Early Quantitative Revolution in Geography. In: Geografiska Annaler , Series B, 98 (3 ), Pp. 198–203. Http:// . Boris Michel (2016): Seeing structures. About the career of a hexagon in the quantitative revolution. In: Geographica Helvetica 71, pp. 303-317,
  12. ^ A b Hans Gebhardt, Rüdiger Glaser , Ulrich Radtke , Paul Reuber: The three-column model of geography . In this. (Ed.): Geography. Physical geography and human geography . 1st edition. Spectrum, Heidelberg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8274-1543-1 , p. 64-75 .
  13. Rainer Danielzyk, Jürgen Oßenbrügge : Perspektivenischer Regionalforschung. "Locality Studies" and regulatory approaches . In: Geographical Rundschau . tape 45 , no. 4 , 1993, p. 210-216 .
  14. ^ Nigel Thrift: Towards a new New Regional Geography . In: Reports on German regional studies . tape 72 , no. 1 , 1998, p. 37-46 .
  15. ↑ Pointing the way: With open cards / Le Dessous des cartes by Jean-Christophe Victor
  16. Web portal of the University Association for Geography Didactics
  17. ^ Geography (special, general, comparative E.) . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 5, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, p. 752.
  18. Gerhard Hard: The "landscape" of language and the "landscape" of geographers. Colloquium Geographicum Bd. 11, Bonn 1970. Ders .: The “total character of the landscape”. Re-interpretation of some passages by Alexander von Humboldt. In: Alexander von Humboldt, Geographische Zeitschrift, supplement 23, Wiesbaden 1970, pp. 49–73. Ders .: On the concept and history of “nature” and “landscape” in the geography of the 19th and 20th centuries. In: other landscape and space. Essays on the theory of geography. Volume 1. Osnabrück Studies on Geography 22, Universitätsverlag Rasch Osnabrück 2002, pp. 171–210.
  19. Gábor Paál: The aesthetic basis of geography and its importance in geography lessons. In: Journal for Geography Education. 46, 1994, pp. 226-229.
  20. Gábor Paál: What is beautiful? Aesthetics and Knowledge. Würzburg 2003, pp. 169–174 (Geography case study).