Geography is considered to be science because it uses the scientific method, and because of the modernization gadget related to science such as anemometer, remote sensing, global positioning, compass, hydrometer, and pressure sensor would not have existed today without geography.
Geography can be categorized into two parts: physical geography and human geography. Physical geography mainly deals with the Earth. Its main objective is to understand about the atmosphere, geomorphology, soil geography, geology, oceanography, climatology, flora, and fauna. This branch is considered science. Whereas human geography deals with human societies: how the settlement came into existence that shapes human society. It comprises settlement, political, economic, and population geography, and these branches are considered a social science.
Geography can also be defined as the study of spatial relationships between physical and internal features because it deals with the physical distribution of population, man-environment relationship, and man’s effect on the environment and vice versa.
As geography is a science of multi-disciplinary, it is then studied in various subjects, such as human geography, physical geography, and cartography. While many people believe geography consists of a very complex and diverse field of study that involves an understanding of statistics, calculation, environmental science, geology, and climate studies.
The established views regarding the nature of geography were set out in two large volumes in the early 1950s: ‘Geography in the 20th Century’ (1951), edited by Griffith Taylor, and ‘American Geography: Inventory and Prospect’ (1954), edited by Preston James and Clarence Jones. However, by then there was growing unease in North America and the United Kingdom with the dominant orientation of the discipline. It was seen as an over-emphasizing society and environment relationships and largely ignoring the spatial relationships that characterized societies in which movement and exchange became very important. Geographers, then argued that they should pay more attention to the spatial organization of economic, social, and political activities (horizontal relationship) across the environmental backdrops. As too much effort was spent, in the society or vertical.
There was a growing belief that the methods for defining regions were out of line with the scientific approaches characterizing other disciplines. Some people opposed that geographers had not contributed well to the war effort. Edward A. Ackerman, a professor of geography at the University of Chicago from 1948 to 1955 and later head of the Carnegie Foundation, claimed that those working in the U.S. government’s intelligence service had only a weak understanding of their material and portrayed them as “more or less amateurs in the subjects on which they published”. He argued that geographers should follow not only the natural sciences but also most of the social sciences as well.
Although there were various moves in those directions in different places, the arguments were focused on in 1953 by a paper in the prestigious the Association of American Geographers that strongly criticized what Ackerman called the regional ‘orthodoxy’. Kurt Schaefer, a German-trained geographer at the University of Iowa, argued that science is characterized by its explanations. These involve laws, or generalized statements of observed regularities, that identify cause-and-effect relationships. According to Schaefer, “to explain the phenomena one has described means always to recognize them as instances of laws”; for him, the major regularities that geographers study relate to spatial patterns (the horizontal relationships identified above), and so “geography has to be conceived as the science concerned with the formulation of the laws governing the spatial distribution of certain features on the Earth’s surface”.
Schaefer codified what an increasing number of geographers were thinking, identifying a need for a major reorientation if not revolution in its practices. The main thrusts occurred elsewhere. One of the most influential early centers was the University of Washington in Seattle, led by William Garrison and Edward Ullman. Their students, such as Brian Berry, William Bunge, Richard Morrill, and Waldo Tobler, became leading protagonists of the new geography, which rapidly spread to other universities in the United States, such as Northwestern, Chicago, and Ohio State in Columbus. It soon reached the United Kingdom, with initial centers at Cambridge and Bristol.
Much inspiration for these shifts came from economists, sociologists, and other social scientists, who were developing theories of spatial organization and using quantitative methods to test their hypotheses. The human geographers who followed their lead promoted in their practices what became known as the ‘quantitative and theoretical revolution’.
So too did physical geographers, who, for example, switched their focus from simply describing landforms to searching for scientific explanations of how they were created examples, such as studies of landforms and climate.
Three main arguments support this paradigm shift in geographical practice. The first was that geography should become more scientific, adopting the experimental science model (positivism) that economists already use. The goal included deductive reasoning, which led to hypothesis testing to produce explanatory laws. The second was that such rigor required quantitative methods to provide precise descriptions and exact, reproducible research findings—unequivocal law-like statements. Finally, with such a shift in disciplinary practices, the applied value of geographical work would be appreciated by the readers, for example, environmental and city and regional planning. Geography should be the science of spatial arrangements and environmental processes. Success in this promotion of geography as a science was crucial in winning recognition for the discipline in the United States from the National Science Foundation in the 1960s, initially as part of the Geography and Regional Science Program.
The success of those promoting change was assisted by the expansion of higher education. More students were going to colleges and universities, and new institutions were being founded. More geographers were needed to teach the subject, and many of those who were recruited preferred the novel approaches. The ‘revolutions’ were to a considerable extent generational. The larger number of practicing geographers also precluded a small number of individuals from imposing their views on the discipline; instead, for new learners there are so many ways to encourage experimentation and explore new topics and approaches. Furthermore, universities were increasingly emphasizing their research as well as teaching roles, and the new generations of geographers were more active as researchers than their predecessors. So many were done by more people and will do in the future leading to greater specialization. Soon geography increasingly fragmented into specialist sub-disciplines.