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Geography - Geographical Theories

regional earth newton twentieth

Both Kant in Königsberg and Isaac Newton (1642–1727) at Cambridge University in England taught what might be called geography today, but they are not remembered for that activity. Newton also postulated that the Earth is an oblate (polar flattened) spheroid before it was proved by geophysical methods. This and other findings were to be of practical use in the development of detailed topographic maps in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and especially during the space age in the second half of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first century. Among the greatest contributions to science have been understanding of the shape, size, and motions of the planet Earth and of its place in the Universe. Although other societies and cultures such as the Chinese and Indian probably recognized the "curved" surface of the Earth, a full realization of the figure, mass, and movements of this planet is essentially a triumph of Western thought. This has become almost universally accepted so that Eurocentrism, as well as Sino-, Indo-, and other "centrisms" are dead, or dying.

This article has stressed the duality of the subject between physical and human, and theoretical and applied aspects, and needs now to detail a further division, that between systematic and regional geography. Some scholars will take a physical entity, such as vegetation or soils, or a cultural feature, such as urbanization or transportation, and discuss it with little or no reference to other topics. Contrasting with this is regional geography, in which the worker attempts to characterize an assemblage of features such as landforms, rivers, roads, soils, human population, and settlements to demonstrate how they are related, or "interact." Of course, the choice of what factors are most significant in a given area is of critical importance. Some assert that it is easier to analyze than to synthesize, and that regional geography is "the highest form of the geographer's craft."

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