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"The language of cartography is so ingrained that it has become invisible. We do not question the connection between the blue line on the map and the idea of a 'river'."
- Simon Paterson

National Geographic 8th Edition Atlas of the World



Map History

The oldest known map dates from the 5th millennium BCE. The advent of geometry, first used in Babylonia around the 23rd century BC, was a major development in mapmaking. The Greeks developed the science of map projections, which are methods of representing the curved surface of the earth on a plane, and are credited with developing the concept of longitude and latitude.

The Greeks
Pythagoras of Ionia, who developed what became the basis of mathematics, was the first notable person to say that the earth was a sphere. Eratosthenes, Anaximander, and Hipparchus are credited with developing the concept of longitude and latitude, and Eratosthenes seems to have developed the equirectangular map projection around 200 BCE.
Copernicus, Nicolaus
Revolutionized astronomy by proposing the Sun, not Earth, as the center of the solar system.
Galileo, Galilei (1564-1642)
Invented the first astronomical telescope.
Mercator, Gerald
(16th century)
Dutch cartographer who invented the "Mercator Projection"; a way to accurately project the spherical world onto a flat chart or map. First to use the word "Atlas" for a book of maps.
Ptolemy, Claudius
Egyptian astronomer who held the Earth was the center of the universe. Developed map projections as well, including the equidistant conic around 150 BCE.
Naming America
In 1505, Rene II, the Duke of Lorraine ordered a group of scholars led by Martin Waldseemuller to draft a new world map.He gave them a French translation of Amerigo Vespucci's travels and as a result, the scholars decided to name the new landmass "America" after the traveller's first name.

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