Like many fields of science, Geography was founded on the work of a Greek scholar. The founders of disciplines are often referred to as Fathers. So who is the Father of Geography? What was he like and how did he create the subject?
The Father of Geography – Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes is renowned for his many important contributions to the field of geography. His life and work have influenced multiple generations of geographers and remain relevant today. Eratosthenes was born in Cyrene (modern-day Libya) in 276 B.C. He was very well educated, having studied philosophy and mathematics in Athens and Alexandria. After studying mathematics, Eratosthenes was appointed as the head librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria.
He used his knowledge of geography to organise and compile a comprehensive catalogue of the library’s books. Eratosthenes is most famous for being the first person to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth. He was able to do this by measuring the angle of the sun at two separate points, one in Syene and the other in Alexandria. By measuring the angle of the sun, Eratosthenes determined that the Earth was round. He then measured the distance between the two points, which he used to calculate the circumference of the Earth. His calculations were remarkably accurate and determined the circumference of the Earth to be 40,000 km.
Eratosthenes also made important contributions to the field of geography by creating the first known map of the world. He divided the world into three parts: Europe, Asia and Africa. He used the Nile River as the basis for his map and drew it from west to east. He also used his knowledge of astronomy to place the stars, constellations and other celestial bodies on the map. This map was the first of its kind and served as a model for later mapmakers.
Eratosthenes is credited with creating the first geographical text, entitled “Geography”. This text contained information on the geography of the Mediterranean region, including descriptions of cities, rivers, mountains, and other geographical features.
He also developed the first system of latitude and longitude, which he used to measure the distances between cities. This system has been used ever since and is still in use today.
Eratosthenes’ Contribution to Other Fields
He also made important contributions to mathematics. He is credited with inventing the sieve of Eratosthenes, which is an algorithm used to find prime numbers. He also developed the concept of prime numbers and is credited with discovering the prime numbers between 1 and 100. Eratosthenes also created a system for organizing books in the Great Library of Alexandria, which he called the “Library of Eratosthenes”.
Eratosthenes’ contributions to the field of geography have been significant and enduring. His work has influenced generations of geographers and is still relevant today. He is credited with being the first person to accurately measure the circumference of the Earth, creating the first known map of the world, and inventing the discipline of geography. He also made important contributions to mathematics. Eratosthenes’ legacy lives on in the field of geography and his contributions are still recognised today.