Geodesy for the laymanThis text is taken from chapter 1 of the public domain resource Geodesy for the Layman at http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/PUBS_LIB/Geodesy4Layman/TR80003A.HTM#ZZ0 -- please Wikify as necessary.
What is geodesy? Who needs it and why? These are some of the questions asked by many people. Actually, geodesy is nothing new having been around for centuries. Webster defines geodesy as "that branch of applied mathematics which determines by observation and measurement the exact positions of points and the figures and areas of large portions of the earth's surface, the shape and size of the earth, and the variations of terrestrial gravity." It is a specialized application of several familiar facets of basic mathematical and physical concepts. In practice, geodesy uses the principles of mathematics, astronomy and physics, and applies them within the capabilities of modern engineering and technology. A thorough study of the science of geodesy is not a simple undertaking. However, it is possible to gain an understanding of the historical development, a general knowledge of the methods and techniques of the science, and the way geodesy is being used to solve some Department of Defense (DoD) problems.
In the past, military geodesy was largely involved with the practical aspect of the determination of exact positions of points on the earth's surface for mapping or artillery control purposes while the determination of the precise size and shape of the earth was a purely scientific role. However, modern requirements for distance and direction require both the practical and scientific applications of the science to provide the answers to problems in such fields as satellite tracking, global navigation and defensive missile operations.
I History of Geodesy II Figure of the Earth III Geodetic Surveying Techniques IV Geodetic Systems V Physical Geodesy (see also existing Wikipedia article physical geodesy) VI Satellite Geodesy VII Other Developments in Geodesy VIII The World Geodetic System