What is a geographer?

Via Church of Geography on Facebook.

Via Church of Geography on Facebook.

(Or cartographer, or explorer, or discoverer…)

1) From W.F. Ganong’s Crucial Maps in the Early Cartography and Place-Nomenclature of the Atlantic Coast of Canada (1964):

For these cartographical quirks, no great blame should attach to the map-makers at home, who, if allowance be made for the limitations of their times, were as competent in their profession as are their greatest successors to-day. Geographically myopic as the first explorers perforce were, even blinder were the cartographers at home, who had to piece together and reconcile, without the slightest means of testing their conclusions, the diversely dependable records and maps those explorers brought back. It is no wonder they so often tried to make place for all the possibilities, thus entailing the duplications, anachronisms, vestigial survivals, and other anomalies, all further warped by their own presuppositions, which so greatly perplex later students. (page 35 / 167 in original)

2) From Le Petit Prince:

geographer

“I am a geographer,” said the old gentleman.

“What is a geographer?” asked the little prince.

“A geographer is a scholar who knows the location of all the seas, rivers, towns, mountains, and deserts.”

“That is very interesting,” said the little prince. “Here at last is a man who has a real profession!” And he cast a look around him at the planet of the geographer. It was the most magnificent and stately planet that he had ever seen.

“Your planet is very beautiful,” he said. “Has it any oceans?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” said the geographer.

“Ah!” The little prince was disappointed. “Has it any mountains?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” said the geographer.

“And towns, and rivers, and deserts?”

“I couldn’t tell you that, either.”

“But you are a geographer!”

“Exactly,” the geographer said. “But I am not an explorer. I haven’t a single explorer on my planet. It is not the geographer who goes out to count the towns, the rivers, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, and the deserts. The geographer is much too important to go loafing about. He does not leave his desk. But he receives the explorers in his study. He asks them questions, and he notes down what they recall of their travels. And if the recollections of any one among them seem interesting to him, the geographer orders an inquiry into that explorer’s moral character.”

“Why is that?”

“Because an explorer who told lies would bring disaster on the books of the geographer. So would an explorer who drank too much.”

“Why is that?” asked the little prince.

“Because intoxicated men see double. Then the geographer would note down two mountains in a place where there was only one.”

“I know some one,” said the little prince, “who would make a bad explorer.”

“That is possible. Then, when the moral character of the explorer is shown to be good, an inquiry is ordered into his discovery.”

“One goes to see it?”

“No. That would be too complicated. But one requires the explorer to furnish proofs. For example, if the discovery in question is that of a large mountain, one requires that large stones be brought back from it.”

The geographer was suddenly stirred to excitement.

“But you–you come from far away! You are an explorer! You shall describe your planet to me!”

And, having opened his big register, the geographer sharpened his pencil. The recitals of explorers are put down first in pencil. One waits until the explorer has furnished proofs, before putting them down in ink.

“Well?” said the geographer expectantly.

“Oh, where I live,” said the little prince, “it is not very interesting. It is all so small. I have three volcanoes. Two volcanoes are active and the other is extinct. But one never knows.”

“One never knows,” said the geographer.

3) Arrested Development:

buster

Buster: Actually I’m studying cartography now: the mapping of uncharted territories.

Michael: Sure. Hasn’t everything already sort of been discovered, though by, like, Magellan and Cortés? NASA, you know?

Buster: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Michael: …all those people.

Buster: Those guys did a pretty good job.

Michael: Right.

Buster: But there’s still. You know…

Lucille: Never hurts to double-check.

4) Bill Nye’s Comic History of the United States:

Dear Brother:

“This letter will be conveyed unto your hands by the bearer hereof. His name is Christopher Columbus, a native of Genoa, who has been living on me for two years. But he is a good man, devout and honest. He is willing to work, but I have nothing to do in his line. Times, as you know, are dull, and in his own profession nothing seems to be doing.

“He is by profession a discoverer. He has been successful in the work where he has had opportunities, and there has been no complaint so far on the part of those who have employed him. Everything he has ever discovered has remained that way, so he is willing to let his work show for itself.

“Should you be able to bring this to the notice of her Majesty, who is tender of heart, I would be most glad; and should her most gracious Majesty have any discovering to be done, or should she contemplate a change or desire to substitute another in the place of the present discoverer, she will do well to consider the qualifications of my friend.

“Very sincerely and fraternally thine,
“Etc., etc.”

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