What is Geography? - Definition, Facts & Types

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 1:18 Physical
  • 1:49 Cultural Geography
  • 2:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will define and explore the study of geography. In doing this, it will also explain the two main branches of geography, which are physical and cultural geography.


If you asked a bunch of people what geography is, I'm guessing you'd get answers like the study of maps or the study of where things are. Although this is true, defining geography so narrowly is like saying fast food restaurants only serve fries.

For starters, geography is the study of Earth's landscapes, peoples, places, and environments. Since it's pretty safe to say that humans have always been curious about the world, many think geography is the oldest of all the sciences. Putting a bit more fact into this assertion, the ancient Greek scholar Eratosthenes is known as the father of geography since he's the guy who first coined the term.

As one of the broadest of all the sciences, geography takes on almost everything that concerns our world. For example, it takes a look at what our communities look like, how people's choices affect nature, Earth's physical changes, human development, and so much more!

It doesn't just answer the question 'What's over there?' It also tells us who's over there, how long they've been there, and why they like it there. To cover such a huge amount of information, the field of geography is usually broken down into two major categories; they are cultural geography and physical geography. Since physical geography is the one most of us are familiar with, we'll start with it.


Physical geography studies the natural world. If you're a physical geographer, your day is full of mountains, lakes, the atmosphere, and even animals. Since it's so broad, physical geography is broken into sub-categories. Two of the most well-known are meteorology, the study of weather, and oceanography, the study of oceans. One thing that physical geographers usually don't delve into is what's going on under the earth's surface. They leave that to their friends, the geologists.

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