During the 19th cent. the demand for national maps was fulfilled, and famous world atlases were published. But with the advent of the 20th cent. the need arose for an international map of the world on a uniform scale. Accordingly, at several meetings of the International Geographical Congress (1891, 1909, 1913), the German Albrecht Penck presented and perfected plans for a world map on a scale of 1:1,000,000, to consist of about 1,500 sheets, each covering four degrees of latitude and six degrees of longitude in a modified conic projection. Uniformity of lettering and the use of layer tints to indicate relief were agreed upon. However, only part of the work has been completed. The greatest single contribution to the map of the world was made by the American Geographical Society of New York, which completed (1945) its 107-sheet Map of Hispanic America.
During World Wars I and II the science and art of mapping were greatly advanced. Modern technology, using remote sensing by airborne and satellite radar, as well as devices called multispectral scanners, has made it possible to quickly collect and update information for mapmaking. Computerized geographic information systems, first developed in the 1960s, now are used to link information stored in databases to maps, increasing and varying the amount of information a map can display. Such systems are used to produce maps for business use, law enforcement, natural-disaster prediction, and many other purposes. In recent years the critical cartography movement, led by a group of British scholars, notably the late J. B. Harley, has studied maps as sociopolitical constructs that interpret reality and reflect the historical power structure as well as their makers' ideas about the world.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.