Friday, January 15, 2010

Gerardus Mercator

Gerardus Mercator

Important contribution: world atlas which helped many future explores.

Gerardus Mercator was born March 5, 1512 in Rupelmonde in the County of Flanders and died December 2, 1594. He was educated with the Brethren of the Common Life in ‘sHertogenbosch in the Netherlands. He gave himself the full name of Gerardus Mercator de Rupelmonde, Mercator in latin meaning ‘merchant’. In 1530 in enrolled at the University of Louvain studying at the Castle and took classes in humanities and philosophy. He graduated there with a Master’s Degree in 1532 and began to chanllenge the views of Aristotle but at the time it was also challenging the views of the Catholic Church. He began to resolve the philosopher’s ideas on the origin of the universe based on the Bible and Aristotle, and he began to doubt philosopher’s ideas. He began traveling a lot with an interest in geography to try and best explain the structure of the world that God created. He studied mathematics in 1534 under Gemma Frisius and applied it to cosmography. He learned how to become an engraver and instrument maker from Gaspard Van der Heyden. With this ability of making mathematical instruments and teaching he earned an income. In 1535-1536, he worked with Van der Heyden and Gemma Frisius in Louvain to construct the terrestrial globe, which was commissioned by the Emperor Charles V. As his role as an engraver, he engraved place names, names of regions, and geographical descriptions on copper.

Mercator created his first map of Palestine and later he made the first map of the world in 1538, which was the first to represent America as stretching from the northern regions to the southern regions and he gave North America it’s name. His map produced high accuracy using data from Flanders’ survey and used the method of triangulation. He produced the world map using individual maps of different regions.

With maps constantly changing with respect to new world discoveries and problems with sailor’s compasses following a curve called a loxodrome he had to create a new map. In 1541 he produced a more up to date globe that was the first to have rhumb lines on it.

He was arrested from February 1544 to September 1544 charged with heresy but was released from support from the University of Louvain and they couldn’t find any connections to others ‘heretics’ who were tortured and burned at the stake or buried alive.

In 1551, he created a celestial globe with correct positions of the stars and by October 1554 he produced a new map of Europe.

He is known for his ‘Mercator projection’, which was composed of the lines of longitude, latitude, and rhomb lines that appear as straight lines on the map. He was the first to use the word ‘atlas’ for a collection of maps, which he published in series first in 1578 and then more in 1589.

In 1590, he began to have a series of three strokes, which led to his death on December 2, 1594 in Duisburg, Duchy of Cleves.


Gerardus Mercator:

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