National Geographic : 1888 Oct
The Classificationof GeographicForms by Genesis. 27 THE CLASSIFICATION OF GEOGRAPHIC FORMS BY GENESIS. By W. J. MCGEE. SCIENTIFIC progress may be measured by advance in the classi fication of phenomena. The primitive classification is based on external appearances, and is a classification by analogies ; a higher classification is based on internal as well as external characters, and is a classification by homologies ; but the ultimate classifica tion expresses the relations of the phenomena classified to all other known phenomena, and is commonly a classification by genesis. The early geologic classification was based chiefly upon simple facts of observation ; but with continued research it is found that the processes by which the phenomena were produced may be inferred, and, accordingly, that the phenomena may be grouped as well by the agencies they represent as by their own character istics. Thus the empiric or formal laws of relation give place to philosophic or physical laws indicating the casual relations of the phenomena, and the final arrangement becomes genetic, or a classification by processes rather than products. The phenomena of geography and geology are identical, save that the latter science includes the larger series : since the days of Lyell the geologist has seen in the existing conditions and agencies of the earth a reflection and expression of the conditions under which and the agencies by which its development has been effected; the far stretching vista of geologic history is illumi nated only by knowledge of the earth of to-day ; and the stages in geologic development are best interpreted in terms of geogra phy. So a genetic classification of geologic phenomena (which is rendered possible and intelligible through geographic research) will apply equally to geography, whether observational or of the more philosophic nature which Davis proposes to call Systematic Geography, and which Powell has called Geomorphology. Such a classification is here outlined. The various processes or movements with which the geologist has to deal fall naturally into two principal and antagonistic cate gories and five subordinate categories; and each category, great and small, comprises two classes of antagonistic processes or movements.