The history of Geography teaching in the University of Hong Kong goes all the way back to 1915 when a course in Economic Geography (in combination with Economics) first entered the University curriculum that year. Geography became independent of Economics in 1931 with a two-year course and its own room. In 1939 the Sloss report recommended that Geography be taught over the full few years of the degree with Geology as a subsidiary subject. It was not until 1946 after the the Second World War that Geography teaching resumed in the University. In 1954, the Department of Geography and Geology was established in the Faculty of Arts and S.G. Davis was appointed as the inaugural Chair Professor in 1955 to guide its teaching and research development.
Following the end of civil war in China and the Korean conflict (mid 1950s to end 1960s), Hong Kong has undergone a period of rapid transformation and growth which has led to a big demand for teachers to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding population. Geography graduates at that time were given an education with such needs in mind. They received broad based human, physical and regional courses and carried out much fieldwork with particular emphasis on Geology, Physical Geography and even Archaeology. Although Archaeology was not included as a degree course, Geography students were encouraged to develop interests and expertise in it as well, following the staff at the time. The student society today is still called the Geographical, Geological and Archaeological Society.
Given the interests of Davis in geology, minerals and physical geography, the earliest research activities and output from the Department in the 1950s reflected these concerns. The emphasis within the Department changed following the appointment of D.J. Dwyer to the chair in 1967. New staff with expertise in the rapidly emerging field of Urban Geography were appointed to undertake new courses and research on the problems of urbanization. The Department's human geography courses were admitted immediately to the new Faculty of Social Sciences when it was established in 1969, and by the mid-1970s physical geography courses were also admitted in the Science curriculum.
Specialist laboratories in aspects of physical geography, photogrammetry (later replaced by GIS) have been established at different time to support the specialist developments in the discipline. Through a very lengthy effort, the Department has also successfully built up a Map Library, which is one of the best equipped in the region, with a very sizeable collection of maps (with particular emphasis on Hong Kong and East and Southeast Asia) and air photos for supporting its extensive research and teaching activities.
Since its establishment in 1954, the Department has thus far produced over 3,100 bachelor degree graduates in Geography, and conferred 178 higher research degree awards [59 Ph.D., 16 M.A. (Research) and 103 M.Phil.] and 570 graduates in different taught postgraduate programmes. Many of these graduates have now become distinguished academics in their own specialties, occupied prominent positions in the Hong Kong civil service and other professions.