National Geographic : 1905 Nov
VOL. XVI, No. ir WASHINGTON NOVEMBER, 1905 giJLKATEIONAIL GEOGRAPHY* BY REAR-ADMIRAL SIR W. J. L. WHARTON, K.C.B., F.R.S. IT is sometimes denied to geography that she has any right to consider herself as a science, the objection being apparently founded on the view that it is a subject that can be learned by heart, but not studied on any systematic line or reduced to principles which enable advance to be made, as in the more ex act sciences, by continual investigation by means of laws discovered in the course of such investigation. This, it appears to me, is a misapprehension due to an incomplete recognition of what science is and of what geography is. Science is, in the simplest interpreta tion, "knowledge," such knowledge as comes from an intimate acquaintance with and study of any subject duly coor dinated and arranged. The subjects which the advancing education and civ ilization of the world have caused to be minutely studied are very many, and as knowledge has increased specialization has become a necessity, until the list of sciences is very long. Science may be broadly divided into several categories: pure or exact science, such as mathematics; natural or phys ical science, which rests on observations of nature; moral science, which treats of all mental phenomena. Some sciences are of ancient founda tion, some have arisen from new inquiries and needs of man or from fissure in sub jects too wide for convenient treatment as one. Many of them are capable of exact definition, and their boundaries and limits can be well marked. To others no very distinct limitations can be assigned. From their nature they overlap and are overlapped by other sub jects, and it is impracticable to confine them by a strict line. Geography is one of the latter. Geography is one of the most ancient subjects studied with the view of coor dinating facts. Adesire for exact knowl edge of, first, the bearings and distances of one place from another for the pur poses of intercommunication must have arisen as soon as men became collected into groups whose growing civilization and needs required travel to obtain what could not be obtained in the community. * An address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 30, 1905. Sir William Wharton was unfortunately taken sick only a few days after the address was delivered and died at Capetown, September 29, from enteric fever and pneumonia. He was 62 years of age, and for a number of years had been Hydrographer of the Admiralty.