In my studies at the technical university in Delft, the following definition of geodesy was given:

Geodesy
is the science that deals with the determination of place, size and shape of the earth and parts thereof relative to other systems. (my translation from the Dutch in my textbook)

This definition is a little broader than the one given by Webster, and adds two elements I value:

  • it explicitly doesn't limit the scope of geodesy to earth itself
  • it points out that any result is relative to some chosen reference

Ge*od"e*sy (?), n. [Gr. ; , , the earth + to divide: cf. F. g'eod'esie.] Math.

That branch of applied mathematics which determines, by means of observations and measurements, the figures and areas of large portions of the earth's surface, or the general figure and dimenshions of the earth; or that branch of surveying in which the curvature of the earth is taken into account, as in the surveys of States, or of long lines of coast.

 

© Webster 1913.

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