What Was The Quantitative Revolution?

A globe, a scale model of the Earth.
A globe, a scale model of the Earth.

The Quantitative Revolution was one of the four main historical moments in modern geography, the other three being regional geography, environmental determinism, and critical geography. The quantitative revolution took place between the 1950's and 1960's and marked an accelerated change in the technique behind geographical research into spatial science from regional geography. Quantitative revolution in other fields such as economics, political science and psychology and to a less extent in history had earlier taken place before geography.

Historical Background

Historically, geography was not viewed as a critical component of science but as soft and unscientific. In turn, geographers worked on a strategy that would convince critics that they are but second class geologists. The quantitative revolution was not the introduction of mathematics into geography but the use of mathematics as a tool for statistical methodology, formal mathematical modeling, and explicit purposes. In the early 1950's geography was faced with the growing pressure to extensively elaborate how social, physical, political, and economic processes are ecologically related, spatially organized, and how certain outcomes in a given place and time are a result of their repercussions.

Factors That Led To The Revolution

After WWII, technology became an important aspect of society which in return made nomothetic-based sciences popular and prominent. Another factor that led to the geographical quantitive revolution is that there were continuing questions on the aspect of geography as its importance was being questioned. Geography was viewed as only educational since it had very few applications mainly in contemporary geography. A number of significant geographic departments and courses in universities were being abolished such as the geography program at Harvard University which was terminated in 1948. Geography was deemed as unscientific and somewhat descriptive without important explanation on how or why certain phenomena occur. Lastly, there was a continuing division between physical and human geography where human geography was becoming an independent subject.

The Introductory Phase

Quantitative revolution was first introduced in the universities of Europe with the support of both statisticians and geographers from the United States and Europe. The revolution first emerged during the late 1950's and early 1960's and raised the credibility of geography. Initially, the idea of using quantitative revolution was to bring out the scientific aspect of geography to light. However, the revolution also resulted in an increased use of computerized techniques in statistics when undertaking geographical research. The new techniques used a wide array of mathematical methods which helped improve the perception of geography as important and scientific study.

The Significance Of The Quantitative Revolution

Quantitative revolution which led to the use of computers has helped in numerous developments which in turn helped geographers to assess complex models.The revolution also had great impact on the urban, physical, and economic branches of geography. The revolution greatly shaped the structure of geography departments in both the US with many physical geographers merging with geological departments, becoming strictly human geographers or quitting the geography departments all together. Quantitative revolution received a different response in the UK as most geographers potedinto specialization of geography and the development of systematic geography among other fields and branches of the subject.


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