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What is the Royal Geographical Society for?

Worlds Apart
June 2009

What is the Royal Geographical Society for — exploration or ‘post-socialist urban identities’?

Time was when most educated people knew, more or less, what geography meant. Putting aside its Greek etymology (“earth description”), for people of a certain age it instantly evokes images of oxbow lakes, valley-scouring glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, alluvial fans, cloud formation and perhaps a bearded teacher.

Physical geography is the venerable descendant of the early investigative forays made by the ancient Greeks who took the first steps in this formal examination of our planet — men like Anaximander of Miletus, the sixth-century BC polymath credited with introducing the gnomon, an early sundial that helped determine solstices and equinoxes, to Greece.