This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
History topic: The history of cartography
This article describes how map making has played an important role in the development of mathematics. It is hardly surprising that cartography should be considered as a mathematical discipline in early times since cartography measures positions of places (mathematics was the science of measurement) and represents a the surface of a sphere on a two dimensional map. Of course what constitutes a map is hard to say, especially when one goes back to the very earliest times. In around 6200 BC in Catal Hyük in Anatolia a wall painting was made depicting the positions of the streets and houses of the town together with surrounding features such as the volcano close to the town. The wall painting was discovered in 1963 near the modern Ankara in Turkey. Whether it is a map or a stylised painting is a matter of debate. Early attempts at maps were severely limited by lack of knowledge of anything other than very local features. In Egypt geometry was used from very early times to help measure land. The annual flooding by the Nile meant that without such measurements it was impossible to reconstruct the boundaries that had existed before the flood. Such measurements, however, seem only to have been of local use and there is no evidence that the Egyptians integrated the measurements into maps of large areas. The oldest extant example of a local Egyptian map is the Turin papyrus which dates from around 1300 BC. Early world maps reflect the religious beliefs of the form of the world. For example maps have been discovered on Babylonian clay tablets dating from around 600 BC. One such map shows Babylon and the surrounding area in a stylised form with Babylon represented by a rectangle and the Euphrates river by vertical lines. The area shown is depicted as circular surrounded by water which fits the religious image of the world in which the Babylonians believed. The earliest ancient Greek who is said to have constructed a map of the world is Anaximander, who was born in 610 BC in Miletus (now in Turkey), and died in 546 BC. He is said to have studied under Thales but sadly no details of his map have survived. Of course, although only a very limited portion of the Earth was known to these ancient Greeks, the shape of the Earth was always going to be of fundamental importance in world maps. Pythagoras, in the 6th century BC, is believed to be the first to put forward a belief in a spherical Earth while Parmenides certainly argued in favour of this in the following century. Around 350 BC Aristotle put forward six arguments to prove that the Earth was spherical and from that time on scholars generally accepted that indeed it was a sphere. Eratosthenes, around 250 BC, made major contributions to cartography. He measured the circumference of the Earth with great accuracy. He sketched, quite precisely, the route of the Nile to Khartoum, showing the two Ethiopian tributaries. He made another important contribution in using a grid to locate positions of places on the Earth. He was not the first to use such a grid for Dicaearchus, a follower of Aristotle, had devised one about 50 years earlier. Today we use latitude and longitude to determine such coordinates and Eratosthenes' grid was of a similar nature. Note, of course, that the use of such positional grids are an early form of Cartesian geometry. Following Dicaearchus, Eratosthenes chose a line through Rhodes and the Pillars of Hercules (present day Gibraltar) to form one of the principal lines of his grid. This line is, to a quite high degree of accuracy, 36 north and Eratosthenes chose it since it divided the world as he knew it into two fairly equal parts and defined the longest east-west extent known. He chose a defining line for the north-south lines of his grid through Rhodes and drew seven parallel lines to each of his defining lines to form a rectangular grid. Hipparchus was critical of the grid defined by Eratosthenes, saying reasonably enough that it was chosen arbitrarily. He suggested that a grid should be chosen with astronomical significance so that, for example, points on the same line would all have the same length of longest day. Although Hipparchus never
1 de 7
It is not surprising that the maps given by Ptolemy were quite inaccurate in many places for he could not be expected to do more than use the available data and. taking 400 stadia per degree. In about 140 A.. how straight the route the travellers taken had been.dcs. broadly speaking.uk/~history/PrintHT/Cartography.Cartography http://www-groups. although computer using the correct mathematical theory. connected with it. Had Ptolemy taken the value of the circumference of the Earth worked out by Eratosthenes then his coordinates would have been very accurate. he devotes only a small discussion to the problem of projecting a sphere onto a plane. he did make astronomical observations to describe eleven parallels given by his astronomical definition. Although Strabo gives a critical account of earlier contributions to cartography. an imitation through drawing of the entire known part of the world together with the things which are. Also the very precise military strategies which their commanders used would seem to give them the 2 de 7 30/4/2007 16:47 . It required the choice of an arbitrary zero but it also required a knowledge of the circumference of the Earth in order to have degrees correspond correctly to distance. However he used the later value computed by Posidonius around 100 BC which. the first being :. He states clearly that his work is not aimed at mathematicians. for anything outside the Roman Empire. Right at the beginning Ptolemy identifies two distinct types of cartography. but although he knew the correct mathematical theory to compute such coordinates accurately from astronomical observations. there were only a handful of places for which such information existed. The second type is :. That the Romans made few contributions is slightly strange given their skills at road building which required accurate surveying measurements. is highly inaccurate... He therefore ensured that the work contained the data and the information necessary for someone to redraw the maps. particularly Marinus of Tyre. He used information from reports of travellers who gave such information as "after ten days travel north we reached . The first volume gives the basic principles of cartography and considers the problem of map projection. there was little chance that maps could be successfully copied. He then marked off where the lines of longitude crossed the parallel of Rhodes. Thus the line of latitude through Rhodes and the Pillars of Hercules (present day Gibraltar) was 36 and this line divided the world as Ptolemy knew it fairly equally into two. He followed previous cartographers in dividing the circle of the equator into 360 and took the equator as the basis for the north-south coordinate system. Ptolemy used data from most of his predecessors.st-and. this was of very poor quality with even some parts of the Roman Empire severely distorted. Ptolemy wrote his major work Guide to Geography. in eight books. an independent discipline [which] sets out the individual localities.D. it covers 62 in Ptolemy's coordinates. and many other unknowns. was written by a noted mathematician. Little progress was made in cartography over the next centuries. Given the way that he gathered the data it is certainly not surprising that the maps were inaccurate but they represented a considerable advance on all previous maps and it would be many centuries before more accurate world maps would be drawn. Although no copies of the work by Eratosthenes and Hipparchus survives. that is mapping the sphere onto the plane. Books 2 to 7 of Geography contain the coordinates of about 8000 places. Therefore instead of the Mediterranean covering 42 as it should.html constructed a map as far as we know. Now the main part of Geography consisted of maps but Ptolemy knew that although a scribe could copy a text fairly accurately. unlike that of Strabo. The final ancient Greek contribution we consider was the most important and. Ptolemy had to estimate the difficulty of the terrain.. and also described the construction of globes.".. which attempted to map the known world giving coordinates of the major places in terms of what are essentially latitude and longitude. He gave two examples of projections.. Ptolemy chose the Fortune Islands (which we believe are the Canary Islands) as longitude zero since it was the most western point known to him. we know of it through the Geographical Sketches of Strabo which was completed in about 23 A. rather at statesmen who need to know about the customs of the people and the natural resources of the land.D. In order to estimate distances from such data.ac. The problem of defining lines of longitude is more difficult.
ac. The Catalan World Map produced in 1375 was the work of Abraham Cresques from Palma in Majorca. certainly not a sphere. geographical regions. He computed very accurate values for the differences in longitude and latitude between Ghazni in Afghanistan and Mecca. he applied these methods on spherical triangles to geographical problems. another type of map. Biblical quotations convinced some that the Earth was a circle.Cartography http://www-groups. some time after 1010. a value not obtained in the West until the 16th century. The earliest portolan maps covered the Mediterranean and Black Sea and showed wind directions and such information useful to sailors. The earliest examples we know about date from the beginning of the 14th century. The manuscript does include maps which are more accurate than those of Ptolemy. with pole on the terrestrial equator. The book gives a good insight into the history of surveying in China and its links with cartography. progress was made in cartography. He found the radius of the earth to be 6339. A detailed description of this projection is given in . there is evidence that mathematics had been used an a major way in surveying and cartography.uk/~history/PrintHT/Cartography. or perhaps more accurately chart. These were called portolan maps (from the Italian word for a sailing manual) and were produced by sailors using a magnetic compass. Sezgin also argues that Ptolemy's Geography may not have included a world map.html motivation to create maps to help their military campaigns. Al-Biruni wrote a textbook on the general solution of spherical triangles around 1000 then. The coast lines shown on these maps are by far the most accurate to have been produced up to that time. which was based on Ptolemy's Geography. some of which were measured by al-Biruni himself. but for Europe al-Khwarizmi seems on the whole to have used Ptolemy's data. was contained in the Bible and not to be found by scientific investigation. Africa and the Far East then his work is considerably more accurate than that of Ptolemy. however. for the use of sailors began to appear. In it he discussed map projections due to other scientists.dcs. however. Where Bible quotations appeared to contradict pre-Christian scientific discoveries. seas. . lists with latitudes and longitudes. see . some being taken al-Khwarizmi's work referred to above. Once Christianity spread across Europe those of learning were Churchmen and the truth about the world. The main driving force in China to survey and draw maps was often for military reasons but also for problems such as water conservancy.st-and. on Islamic sources. The book. while for others quotations such as "the four corners of the Earth" in Isaiah proved that the Earth was rectangular. Al-Khwarizmi wrote a major work on cartography which gave the latitudes and longitudes for 2402 localities as a basis for his world map. cities. mountains. and rivers. and that some later world maps are based. and were Italian or Catalan portolan maps. Perhaps it was the mathematical nature of a map which prevented the non-mathematical Romans from advancing the subject. then gives his own interesting mapping of a hemisphere onto a plane. In  Liu Hui's 3rd century work the Sea Island mathematical manual is studied. He was a skilled cartographer and instrument maker and the map was commissioned by Charles V of France. Ptolemy's Geography was translated into Arabic in the 9th century and soon improvements were being made using data obtained from the explorations being carried out. islands. His Masudic canon contains a table giving the coordinates of six hundred places. In  he presents a reconstruction of al-Khwarizmi's map of the world which he believes used a stereographic projection of the terrestrial hemisphere.6 km. and . The next important Islamic scholar we should mention is al-Biruni who wrote his Cartography in around 995. In the Arabic/Persian/Muslim world. has done much to demonstrate that the medieval Islamic geographers had an important influence on the development of geography in Europe up to 1800. and in fact far more progress than was realised for a long time. they argued. at least in part. The major work by Sezgin. In China. At a time when Christian Europe was producing religious representations of the world rather than scientific maps. He introduced techniques to measure the Earth and distances on it using triangulation. for it is only in recent years that the full significance of these contributions has been realised. then good science was dismissed as pagan foolishness. The western part of his map was partly based on portolan maps while the eastern part was based on 3 de 7 30/4/2007 16:47 . in particular it is clear that where more local knowledge was available to al-Khwarizmi such as in the regions of Islam.
html Ptolemy's data. the first being in the Florence edition of 1480 which contained new maps of France. Many printed editions with maps followed in quick succession. The means to make maps widely available also happened in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press around the middle to the century. He made a clear distinction between the two parts (see  where the following quotation is given):We have confined the Geography of Ptolemy to the first part of the work. Spain and Palestine based on recent knowledge. he has much 'terra incognita'. The 15th century saw cartography revolutionised in Europe.. it would be necessary in respect to the setting out of the known parts of this circumference. since they have not been tested. The first steps involved the translation of Ptolemy's Geography into Latin which was begun by Emmanuel Chrysoloras and completed in 1410 by Jacobus Angelus. and newly discovered lands were soon included.st-and.ac. Brother Mauro. Despite 1300 years passing since Ptolemy's time. had an excellent reputation in cartography by the middle of the 15th century. This edition only contained the text and not maps. they are not of much authenticity. that is from south to north. New maps were added to various editions to include more accurate and detailed information about Europe.. Another first for Waldseemüller occurred in an earlier work in 1507 in which he proposed the naming of America (see  where the following quotation is given):Since another fourth part [of the world] has been discovered by Americus Vesputius. now along side European science. in order that its antiquity may remain intact and separate. because in his time it was unknown. But principally in latitude. and charts drawn by these explorers were sent to him. Arabic science continued to flourish. to have observed his meridians or parallels or degrees. The edition which many consider to be the first modern atlas (although the term 'atlas' was not used until Gerardus Mercator coined it around 1578) was published in Strasburg in 1513 with 27 maps of the ancient world and 20 new maps based on recent knowledge produced by Martin Waldseemüller. a monk from Murano near Venice. Waldseemüller's map of the world was the first to cover 360 of longitude and to show the complete coast of Africa. Mauro is still not able to give a good approximation for the circumference of the Earth writing:I have found various opinions regarding this circumference.Cartography http://www-groups. which appeared in 1508 with 34 maps. The first printed version of Ptolemy's Geography appeared in 1475 being the Latin translation referred to above. The first to show the New World was a new edition of the 1475 Rome edition. Land of Americus or America. In 1457 he was commissioned by the King of Portugal to produce a new world map containing details of the new lands discovered by the Portuguese explorers. but it not possible to verify them .dcs. The date of the first edition to contain maps is still disputed but may be the one printed in Rome in 1478 which contained 27 maps.uk/~history/PrintHT/Cartography. Brother Mauro added the new discoveries to his maps but he made no improvements in the science of cartography. a man of natural wisdom. Italy. since both Europe and Asia have derived their names from women. Waldseemüller also made important contributions to the science of cartography. He wrote on surveying and perspective and produced a booklet on how to use globes. Producing a map which did not follow Ptolemy clearly worried Mauro who wrote (see for example ):I do not think it derogatory to Ptolemy if I do not follow his 'Cosmografia'. The main motivation to improve cartography came with the discoveries of new lands made by the Portuguese explorers of the 15th century. because. I do not see why anyone should object to its being called after Americus the discoverer. and mathematical geography saw important developments with Sulayman al-Mahri's Tuhfat al-fuhul fi tamhid al-usul and the commentary 4 de 7 30/4/2007 16:47 . to leave out many provinces not mentioned by Ptolemy.
astronomy. In 1530 he published On the Principles of Astronomy and Cosmography. He set up a new press in Nuremburg in 1472 and announced his intention to publish maps and books including Ptolemy's Geography. He employed his ideas of perspective on maps. major contributions were made by Gerardus Mercator who studied under Frisius. but his greatest contribution to cartography must be the Mercator projection. In 1533 Gemma Frisius published Libellus de locurum which described the theory of trigonometric surveying and in particular contains the first proposal to use triangulation as a method of accurately locating places. He realised that sailors incorrectly assumed that following a particular compass course would have them travel in a straight line. the shape of the earth. began his publishing career with producing a world map Typus orbis universalis which he based on an earlier 1520 world map by Martin Waldseemüller. Johann Werner was a follower of Regiomontanus from Nuremburg. mathematical instruments. being the first to make such a proposal. Not only did Frisius propose an efficient theoretical method for surveying which was needed to produce accurate maps. only one accurate measurement of actual distance was required to fix the scale. A ship sailing towards the same point of the compass would follow a curve called a loxodrome (also called a rhumb line or spherical helix).dcs. Apianus. and Information on the World and on Islands and Other Places Recently Discovered which made major contributions to cartography. This provided an accurate means of surveying using relatively few observations. map projections. but he also produced the instruments with which to undertake the surveys and he published accurate maps using the data gathered from such surveys. Gemma Frisius was another mathematician who made significant contributions to cartography. with Instruction for the Use of Globes. This work by Werner strongly influenced Gerardus Mercator. He was fascinated with the ideas of projecting a sphere and also of what the Earth would look like if viewed from the heavens.Cartography http://www-groups. a noted mathematician. weather and climate. This book contains a description of an instrument with an angular scale on a staff from which degrees could be read off. Trigonometric methods allowed differences in longitude to be calculated. Regiomontanus was in a good position to give a lead.html on it Kitab sarh written in the early sixteenth-century. navigation. and mathematical instruments.ac. cartography. Al-Mahri used astronomical observations of the height of stars to determine the difference in latitude between two places. a curve which Pedro Nunes. surveying. Albrecht Dürer visited Regiomontanus' workshops in Nuremburg when he was young lad. He set up a workshop in Nuremburg to make mathematical instruments. With an interest in trigonometry. He produced his own version of Apianus's Cosmographia a few years after the original edition. His 1524 publication Cosmographia seu descriptio totis orbis was a work based largely on Ptolemy which provided an introduction to astronomy. He realised that accurate coordinates of places were required to draw accurate maps and that the greatest problem was in computing the longitude. He proposed the method of lunar distances to determine longitude which was an important proposal. Following Gemma Frisius. This work was an important stage in his developing the idea of the Mercator projection which he first used in 1569 for a 5 de 7 30/4/2007 16:47 .uk/~history/PrintHT/Cartography. and geography. Positions of places were fixed as the point of intersection of two lines and. had studied shortly before. In particular he described how longitude could be calculated using a clock to determine the difference in local and absolute times. and in particular he collaborated with Johann Stabius in the construction of globes in 1515. A new globe which Gerardus Mercator produced in 1541 was the first to have rhumb lines shown on it. a mathematician greatly admired by Mercator. and published works giving details of the use of the instruments. Werner's most famous work on geography is In Hoc Opere Haec Cotinentur Moua Translatio Primi Libri Geographicae Cl'Ptolomaei written in 1514. as Frisius pointed out.st-and. Mercator made many new maps and globes. It was the 16th century which saw the first major mathematical improvements in cartography in Europe although Regiomontanus had led the way towards the end of the 15th century. He also developed a good understanding of how to compensate for the errors caused by short-cuts in his mathematical calculations and also for errors caused by inaccurate data. geography. It also gives a method to determine longitude based on eclipses of the Moon and makes a study of map projections.
Such a map or survey would be useful both in time of war and peace. for by the 1570s he was an old man with health problems.ac. Gerardus Mercator gave instructions on the map so that for two places if one knew any two of the following four pieces of data: difference on longitudes. as well as civil. which highest. Calculating latitude was easy. In this projection the meridians are vertical and parallels having increased spacing in proportion to the secant of the latitude. how the rivers flow. was born in Antwerp on 4 April 1527. and to the sea. He published the Theatrum orbis terrarum in 1570 which consisted of 70 maps presented in a uniform style using the most up-to-date data. It was the most popular atlas of its time. He studied Greek. and how the marches. and had long been achieved with a sextant. which lowest. as I may so say. Of course the Mercator projection has the property that distances near the poles are greatly distorted so it was not easy to use the map to measure distances. Methinks also a Prince should have such a draught of his country and dominions. For example Thomas Burnet in The theory of the earth (London. how the mountains lie.st-and. The 'Mercator projection' has the property that lines of longitude. It appeared a few years before the atlas of Mercator began publication and many argue that Mercator delayed in order to let his younger friend have priority. . seems unlikely and it is much more probable that Mercator's work was delayed. and represent the artificial Earth as inhabited and cultivated: But natural maps leave out all that. what respect they have to one another. The story of attempts at solving this problem are given in our two essays Longitude and the Académie Royale and English attack on the Longitude Problem and it is to these essays that we refer the reader for information on many later developments in cartography. but also in order to the perfect improvement of a country. . and it is important in the history of cartography partly because Ortelius quotes 87 authorities for the data on which his maps are based. strongly influenced by Gerardus Mercator. to see how the ground lies in the several parts of them. difference in latitudes. known by his Latinised name of Ortelius. went on to open a map making business. how heaths. By the 17th and 18th centuries scientific advances had paved the way for further improvements in cartography. The Low Countries had dominated developments in cartography through 6 de 7 30/4/2007 16:47 . nor ever had been . . 1684) wrote:I do not doubt but that it would be of very good use to have natural maps of the Earth .Cartography http://www-groups. then his formula allowed one to find the other two. with the site of all its parts. distance between them. Greenland (whose area is about 2 million km2) appears to be larger than Africa (whose area is about 30 million km2). direction between them. however. lines of latitude and rhomb lines all appear as straight lines on the map. Progress in cartography now became dependent on having the means of accurately determining the position of places in the world. Latin and mathematics and. As a world map the Mercator projection then has considerable disadvantages (as necessarily do all projections) but for sea charts it is undoubtedly the best projection and was eventually adopted by all sailors. Abraham Ortel.the skeleton of the Earth. and many good observations might be made by it. and why. and represent the Earth as it would be if there were not an Inhabitant upon it. . see  for details.html wall map of the world on 18 separate sheets. which note the distinction of countries and of cities.dcs. Not only were new methods being developed. This.uk/~history/PrintHT/Cartography. Edward Wright published mathematical tables to be used in calculating Mercator's projection in 1599. It is interesting to realise that on a map of the world drawn with the Mercator projection. but there were also arguments to produce a different type of map. but the problem of accurately calculating the longitude proved a great challenge. Our common maps I call civil. not only as to natural history and philosophy. .
st-and. after some delay.C.ac. Stockholm and London. In 1891 there was an International Geographical Congress in Bern which established the International Map of the World. There is another problem with longitude. namely that a zero needs to be set arbitrarily.ac.mcs. Naples. International agreement was needed to set cartographic standards and the International Meridian Conference held in Washington D. Some. USA in 1884 had delegates from 26 countries.st-andrews. The scale was to be 1:1000000 and several nations agreed to cooperate to produce a world map to this standard.html] 7 de 7 30/4/2007 16:47 . Standards were set and a symbol convention was chosen.uk/HistTopics/Cartography. namely how the map is oriented. it has become standard practice to have north at the top of a map. Pulkova. Early Christian maps had north at the top while early Arabic/Muslim maps had south at the top. They standardised the Greenwich Meridian as the zero for longitude and.Cartography http://www-groups.uk/~history/PrintHT/Cartography. all countries adopted this and the equator as the basic reference lines. but which is chosen is a completely arbitrary decision. other than methods to calculate it. as is to be expected. However after this the centre of activity moved to France where a national survey based on a mathematical approach to trigonometric surveying led the way. of course. several different places were chosen as the zero such as Paris. At first. Without any international agreement. There is. but not all. another decision to be taken in order to standardise maps. Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson August 2002 MacTutor History of Mathematics [http://www-history.dcs. Other collaborative international projects have been less successful. Cadiz. of the proposed maps have been produced but the project has never been completed. It is fairly logical to have either north or south at the top.html the 16th and early 17th centuries.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.