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6/3/2016 Thematic map - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thematic map
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A thematic map is a type of map especially designed to show a

particular theme connected with a specific geographic area. These maps
"can portray physical, social, political, cultural, economic, sociological,
agricultural, or any other aspects of a city, state, region, nation, or

1 Overview
2 History
3 Uses of thematic maps
4 Data terminology
5 Methods of thematic mapping
5.1 Choropleth Edmond Halley's New and Correct
5.2 Proportional symbol Chart Shewing the Variations of the
5.3 Isarithmic or Isopleth Compass (1701), the first chart to
5.4 Dot show lines of equal magnetic
5.5 Dasymetric variation.
6 See also
7 References
8 Further reading

A thematic map is a map that focuses on a specific theme or subject
area. This is in contrast to general reference maps, which regularly
show the variety of phenomenageological, geographical, political
together.[2][3] The contrast between them lies in the fact that thematic
maps use the base data, such as coastlines, boundaries and places, only
as points of reference for the phenomenon being mapped. General maps
portray the base data, such as landforms, lines of transportation,
Map of the total fertility rate in
settlements, and political boundaries, for their own sake.[2] Slovakia by region (2014)

Thematic maps emphasize spatial variation of one or a small number of 1.5 - 1.7
geographic distributions. These distributions may be physical phenomena 1.4 - 1.5
such as climate or human characteristics such as population density and 1.3 - 1.4
< 1.3 1/5
6/3/2016 Thematic map - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

health issues. Barbara Petchenik[4] described the difference as "in place, about space." While general reference
maps show where something is in space, thematic maps tell a story about that place[5] (e.g., city map).

Thematic map are sometimes referred to as graphic essays that portray spatial variations and interrelationships of
geographical distributions. Location, of course, is important to provide a reference base of where selected
phenomena are occurring.

An important cartographic element preceding thematic mapping was the
development of accurate base maps. Improvements in accuracy
proceeded at a gradual pace, and even until the mid-17th century,
general maps were usually of poor quality. Still, base maps around this
time were good enough to display appropriate information, allowing for
the first thematic maps to come into being.

One of the earliest thematic maps was a map entitled Designatio orbis
christiani (1607) by Jodocus Hondius showing the dispersion of major
religions, using map symbols in the French edition of his Atlas Minor
(1607).[6] This was soon followed by a thematic globe (in the form of a
six-gore map) showing the same subject, using Hondius' symbols, by
John Snow's cholera map about the
Franciscus Haraeus, entitled: Novus typus orbis ipsus globus, ex
cholera deaths in London in the
Analemmate Ptolomaei diductus (1614)[7] 1840s, published 1854.

An early contributor to thematic mapping in England was the English

astronomer Edmond Halley (16561742).[2] His first significant cartographic contribution was a star chart of the
constellation of the Southern Hemisphere, made during his stay on St. Helena and published on 1686. In that same
year he also published his first terrestrial map in an article about trade winds, and this map is called the first
meteorological chart.[8] In 1701 he published the "New and Correct Chart Shewing the Variations of the
Compass", see first image, the first chart to show lines of equal magnetic variation.

Another example of early thematic mapping comes from London physician John Snow. Though disease had been
mapped thematically, Snows cholera map in 1854 is the best known example of using thematic maps for analysis.
Essentially, his technique and methodology anticipate principles of a geographic information system (GIS). Starting
with an accurate base map of a London neighborhood which included streets and water pump locations, Snow
mapped out the incidents of cholera death. The emerging pattern centered around one particular pump on Broad
Street. At Snows request, the handle of the pump was removed, and new cholera cases ceased almost at once.
Further investigation of the area revealed the Broad Street pump was near a cesspit under the home of the
outbreak's first cholera victim.

Another 19th century example of thematic maps, according to Friendly (2008), was the earliest known choropleth
map in 1826 created by Charles Dupin. Based on this work Louis-Leger Gauthier (18151881) developed the
population contour map, a map that shows the population density by contours or isolines.[9]

Uses of thematic maps 2/5
6/3/2016 Thematic map - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thematic maps serve three primary purposes.

1. They provide specific information about particular locations.

2. They provide general information about spatial patterns.
3. They can be used to compare patterns on two or more maps.

Common examples are maps of demographic data such as population density. When designing a thematic map,
cartographers must balance a number of factors in order to effectively represent the data. Besides spatial accuracy,
and aesthetics, quirks of human visual perception and the presentation format must be taken into account.

In addition, the audience is of equal importance. Who will read the thematic map and for what purpose helps
define how it should be designed. A political scientist might prefer having information mapped within clearly
delineated county boundaries (choropleth maps). A state biologist could certainly benefit from county boundaries
being on a map, but nature seldom falls into such smooth, man-made delineations. In which case, a dasymetric map
charts the desired information underneath a transparent county boundary map for easy location referencing.

Data terminology
A thematic map is univariate if the non-location data is all of the same kind. Population density, cancer rates, and
annual rainfall are three examples of univariate data.

Bivariate mapping shows the geographical distribution of two distinct sets of data. For example, a map showing
both rainfall and cancer rates may be used to explore a possible correlation between the two phenomena.

More than two sets of data leads to multivariate mapping. For example, a single map might show population
density in addition to annual rainfall and cancer rates.

Methods of thematic mapping

Cartographers use many methods to create thematic maps, but five
techniques are especially noted.


Choropleth mapping shows statistical data aggregated over predefined

regions, such as counties or states, by coloring or shading these regions.
For example, countries with higher rates of infant mortality might appear
darker on a choropleth map. This technique assumes a relatively even Choropleth map of water use.
distribution of the measured phenomenon within each region. Generally
speaking, differences in hue are used to indicate qualitative differences, such as land use, while differences in
saturation or lightness are used to indicate quantitative differences, such as population.

Proportional symbol

The proportional symbol technique uses symbols of different sizes to represent data associated with different areas
or locations within the map. For example, a disc may be shown at the location of each city in a map, with the area
of the disc being proportional to the population of the city. 3/5
6/3/2016 Thematic map - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Isarithmic or Isopleth

Isarithmic maps, also known as contour maps or isopleth maps depict

smooth continuous phenomena such as precipitation or elevation. Each
line-bounded area on this type of map represents a region with the same
value. For example, on an elevation map, each elevation line indicates an
area at the listed elevation. An Isarithmic map is a planimetric graphic
representation of a 3-D surface. Isarithmic mapping requires 3-D thinking
for surfaces that vary spatially.

Dot Isarithmic map of barometric

A dot distribution map might be used to locate each occurrence of a
phenomenon, as in Dr. Snow's map where each dot represented one
death due to cholera. Where appropriate, a dot may indicate any number
of entities, for example, one dot for every 100 voters.


A dasymetric map is an alternative to a choropleth map. As with a

choropleth map, data are collected by enumeration units. But instead of
mapping the data so that the region appears uniform, ancillary
information is used to model internal distribution of the phenomenon.
For example, population density will be much lower in forested area than
urbanized area, so in a common operation, land cover data (forest,
water, grassland, urbanization) may be used to model the distribution of
Map of climate and plant hardiness
population reported by census enumeration unit such as a tract or county.

See also
Andr-Michel Guerry
Flow map
Nautical chart
Topographic map

1. Thematic Maps ( Map Collection &
Cartographic Information Services Unit. University Library, University of Washington. Accessed 27 Dec 2009.
2. Thrower 2008, p. 95 (
3. "Fundamentals of Mapping". Retrieved 2015-05-03.
4. Bartz Petchenik, Barbara (April 1979). "From Place to Space: The Psychological Achievement of Thematic
Mapping". Cartography and Geographic Information Science 6 (1): 512. doi:10.1559/152304079784022763.
5. Maps and GS ( Accessed 28 Feb
6. Van der Dussen, Jan and Kevin Wilson (1995). The History of the Idea of Europe. Routledge. p. 28. 4/5
6/3/2016 Thematic map - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

7. "Novus typus orbis ipsus globus, ex Analemmate Ptolomaei diductus 1614". Retrieved 25 February 2013.
8. Thrower 2008, p. 97 (
9. Michael Friendly (2008). "Milestones in the history of thematic cartography, statistical graphics, and data
visualization" (
10. Slocum, Terry A.; McMaster, Robert B.; Kessler, Fritz C.; Howard, Hugh H. (2009). Thematic cartography and
geovisualization (3rd ed.). Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-229834-6. Ch. 15

Further reading
Delaney, John (2012). First X, Then Y, Now Z: An Introduction to
Landmark Thematic Maps. Princeton University Library. Wikimedia Commons has
Muehrcke, Phillip; Muehrcke, Juliana O.; Kimerling, A. Jon (2001). media related to Maps by
Map Use: Reading, Analysis, and Interpretation. JP Publications. theme.
ISBN 978-0-9602978-5-6.
Robinson, Arthur H. (1982). Early Thematic Mapping in the History of Cartography. University of Chicago Press.
ISBN 978-0-226-72285-6.
Robinson, Arthur H. (1995). Elements of cartography (6e ed.). Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-55579-7.
Slocum, Terry A.; McMaster, Robert B.; Kessler, Fritz C.; Howard, Hugh H. (2009). Thematic cartography and
geovisualization (3rd ed.). Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-229834-6.
Thrower, Norman J.W. (2008). Maps & Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society (3rd ed.). University of
Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-79974-2.

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