Gerardus Mercator

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Mercator, Gerardus

(jərär`dəs mûrkā`tər), Latin form of

Gerhard Kremer

(gār`härt krā`mər), 1512–94, Flemish geographer, mathematician, and cartographer. He studied in LouvainLouvain
, Du. Leuven, city (1991 pop. 85,018), Flemish Brabant prov., central Belgium, on the Dijle River. It is a commercial, industrial, and cultural center, as well as a rail junction. Mentioned in the 9th cent.
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, where he had a geographical establishment (1534). From 1537 to 1540 he surveyed and mapped FlandersFlanders
, former county in the Low Countries, extending along the North Sea and W of the Scheldt (Escaut) River. It is divided among East Flanders and West Flanders provs., Belgium; Nord and Pas-de-Calais depts., France; and (to a small extent) Zeeland prov., the Netherlands.
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. In 1538 he produced his first map of the world (based on PtolemyPtolemy
(Claudius Ptolemaeus), fl. 2d cent. A.D., celebrated Greco-Egyptian mathematician, astronomer, and geographer. He made his observations in Alexandria and was the last great astronomer of ancient times.
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's map); in 1541 he made a terrestrial, and in 1551 a celestial, globe. He was appointed (1552) to the chair of cosmography in Duisburg. In 1554 he made a six-sheet map of Europe. The first map using the projection (the translation of the spherical earth to a two-dimensional flat plane) that bears his name appeared in 1569. Accurate in equatorial regions but distorting the size and shape of numerous other areas of the world, the Mercator projection was nonetheless valuable because it enabled navigators to accurate straight-line courses, and has been more generally used than any other projection for navigators' world maps. In 1585, Mercator began a work (for which he coined the word atlas) that included many of his earlier maps; the atlas was completed by his son and published in 1594. Mercator did cartographical work for Charles V and was cosmographer to the duke of Jülich and Cleves. He wrote several books on subjects such as ancient geography and the science and mathematics of geography and cartography.


See N. Crane, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet (2003).

Mercator, Gerardus


(Latinized name of Gerhard van Kremer). Born Mar. 5, 1512; died Dec. 2, 1594. Flemish cartographer.

After graduating from the University of Louvain, Mercator began making precision optical instruments and maps. In 1552 he emigrated to Duisburg, Germany. Critically examining the available cartographic material, Mercator proposed new principles of map design, based on mathematics, and in particular several cartographic projections. His most famous projection, subsequently called the Mercator projection, is the cylindrical equiangular projection he used for his map of the world in 1569. The projection was universally accepted, and since that time it has been used in making marine and aeronautical charts and other maps requiring precise representation of angles. During his investigation of terrestrial magnetism Mercator computed the coordinates of the magnetic pole. His principal work was a collection of maps of European countries, called the Atlas (1595, published posthumously). The subject and aims of geography are described in the Preface to the Atlas.


Salishchev, K. A. Osnovy kartovedeniia: ChasVistoricheskaia ikartograficheskie materialy. Moscow, 1948.
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