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Today marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of Gerhardus Mercator, one of the most famous cartographers in history. A cartographer is someone who creates maps, and Mercator came up with a new way to project the round Earth onto a flat map so that sailors and other travelers could accurately find their way around the globe. This method is called the Mercator projection.
To learn more about cartography, maps and exploration, try some of these great books :
Where on earth am I? by Robert Gardner (526 Gar) – Offers a variety of investigations, activities, and projects explaining how humans discovered Earth’s position in the universe, and how we can find our own location using maps, compasses, the sun, and the stars.
Circumference : Eratosthenes and the ancient quest to measure the globe by Nicholas Nicastro (526.1092 Nic) – Examines the techniques used by Eratosthenes, an ancient Greek, who came up with a calculation to measure the circumference of the Earth during an era when measuring distance was uncommon.
Longitude : the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time by Dava Sobel (526.62 Sob) – Story of John Harrison’s forty-year quest to build the chronometer, the clock that enabled sailors to measure longitude, saving lives and fortunes.
Phantom islands of the Atlantic : the legends of seven lands that never were by Donald Johnson (398.42 Joh) – Tells the strange tales of seven lands, conjured out of myth, human error, and occasionally a captain’s hubris but nonetheless appearing on maps for centuries – even though many of them never actually existed.
Off the map : the curious histories of place-names by Derek Nelson (910.3 Nel) – The names of places can reflect linguistic or ethnic conflicts; errors in boundary-setting and mapmaking; or the story of the exploration, conquest, or liberation of the area. The author’s extensive discussion of the history of cartography notes the degree to which the discipline has been influenced by ignorance, mythic beliefs, greed, and politics. Includes numerous reproductions of old maps.
Explorer by Rupert Matthews (910 Mat) – Photographs and text examine the history of explorers and exploration, and highlight many of their discoveries.
Voyages of discovery : timeframe AD 1400-1500 by the editors of Time-Life (910 Voy) – Presents a perspective of world history between 1400 and 1500 including the Italian renaissance and the lost empires of the Americas.