Gerardus Mercator

Date Of Birth:
5 March 1512
Date Of Death:
2 December 1594
Place Of Birth:
now Belgium
Best Known As:
The Flemish map maker whose 1569 map we all recognize

Name at birth: Geert Kremer

Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator produced a flat world map in 1569 that came to dominate our view of the world until only recently. From humble beginnings in what is now Belgium, Mercator was educated in philosophy and religion and mathematics, and completed his first map of the world in 1538. By 1541 Mercator was famous for his maps (and italic script) and was also in the business of producing globes — a high-priced necessity for wealthy patrons across Europe. The Mercator “projection” on his most famous map created parallel lines meant to aid in the navigation of the oceans. It was a breakthrough for sailors. By the 18th century, it was the model for world maps produced in Europe. Mercator produced many other maps and globes, both of the earth and of the cosmos. They were often filled with notations. He was also an excellent caligrapher and engraver and a skilled craftsman, and by contemporary accounts a well-liked and industrious fellow. The title of his famous 1569 map was Nova et Auta Orbis Terrae Descriptio ad Usum Navigantium Emendate Accommodata, which means, in short, “a new map for navigating.”
Extra Credit

Raised a Catholic but surrounded by those sympathetic to the new Protestantism of Martin Luther, Gerardus Mercator found himself on the naughty list by Inquisitors in search of heretics. In 1543 he was imprisoned for seven months, and some of his associates were executed.

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