One of the grandfathers of modern navigation Gerardus Mercator is being rightly celebrated in Google Doodle form today in honour of his 503rd birthday.
|The Google Doodle - a stylised Google logo - in honour of cartographer, philosopher and mathematician Gerardus Mercator on internet search giant Google’s homepage|
Born in modern-day Belgium in 1512, Mercator in his adult life was what would be called today a ‘cartiophile’ – lover of maps. Despite spending his days earning his keep as a craftsman creating mathematical instruments, he would spend much of his spare time working on his own map creations.
ORBIS TERRAE COMPENDIOSA DESCRIPTIO, From Atlas sive Cormographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura, Mercator's heirs, 1602.
While Mercator’s legacy lays him claim as the person who coined the term ‘atlas’ as a collection of maps, arguably his greatest achievement was the development of a whole new means of nautical navigation, that being the inclusion of longitude and latitude lines to give sailors a better representation of their current bearing.
As Mercator grew older – much longer than what would have been common at the time – he teamed up with a man named Abraham Ortelius to compile the first world atlas in 1570 known as the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.
Of course, the atlas was only a representation of what was thought to be the world at that time.
Before he died in 1594, at the age of 82, Mercator went on to become the world’s leading maker of globes, 22 of which are still in existence today.