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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Mercator, Gerardus"

Mercator, Gerardus [Astro*Index]


(1512-1594) Flemish geographer. Born at Rupelmonde (Belgium); died at Duisburg, Germany.

Gerhard Kremer used that Latinized name Mercator. Born in the Age of Exploration, he was exposed to this air of excitement during his youth, and viewed the great ships of the Netherlands which explored distant lands. He was aware of the importance of good maps, and after his graduation from the University at Louvain, he founded a geographical establishment in that city, where he set about the task of preparing a length series of maps. With his strong mathematical background, he designed instruments for use in this work, and completed a set for Emperor Charles V. A Protestant in a Catholic area, he was prosecuted for heresy; surviving, he decided to move to Germany, where he became cartographer to the Duke of Cleves. Although he initially was guided by Ptolemy's maps (which depicted the Mediterranean too long by several hundred miles), he eventually introduced his own method of projecting the sphere onto a cylindrical surface. Many books confuse his method with a pure Cylindrical Projection, but the Mercator Projection is not quite the same (the point of illumination moves, and does not remain at the centre of the sphere). Rather, the projection is defined by mathematical formulae. The world maps most familiar to layman are called Mercator Projections. His book of detailed maps, published one year after his death, presented an image of Atlas holding the world on his shoulders; such collections of maps have been called by the name atlas since that time.


See also:
♦ Ptolemy


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine