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Definition of CALIFORNIA
state SW United States ∗ Sacramento area 158,706 square miles (411,048 square kilometers), pop 37,253,956
— Cal·i·for·nian\-nyən\adjective or noun
geographical name(Concise Encyclopedia)
State, western U.S. Area: 158,633 sq mi (410,858 sq km). Pop. (2009 est.): 36,961,664. Capital: Sacramento. California lies on the Pacific Ocean and is bordered by Mexico and the U.S. states of Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona. It is the largest state in population and the third largest in area, extending about 800 mi (1,300 km) north to south and 250 mi (400 km) east to west. Within 85 mi (137 km) of each other lie Mount Whitney and Death Valley, the highest (14,494 ft [4,418 m]) and lowest (282 ft [86 m] below sea level) points in the 48 contiguous states. California was inhabited originally by Native Americans. The first European coastal expansion took place in 1542–43 when Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo established a Spanish claim to the area. The first mission was established by Junípero Serra at San Diego in 1769. The region remained under Spanish and, after the 1820s, Mexican control until it was taken by U.S. forces in the Mexican War and ceded to the U.S. by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Though settlement had begun by the U.S. in 1841, it was greatly accelerated by the 1848 gold rush. California was admitted to the union in 1850 as a nonslavery state under the Compromise of 1850. Its already expanding population grew immensely in the 20th century. It has the largest economy of any U.S. state. It has suffered severe earthquakes, most destructively those of San Francisco in 1906 and 1989 and Los Angeles in 1994.