MERCATOR
Gerardus Mercator, 1512 - 1594


Geradus Mercator

Considered by many to be the greatest cartographer of early modern times, Gerardus Mercator was born Gerhard Kremer of German parents in the town of Rapelmonde near Antwerp on March 5, 1512. Like many other intellectuals of his time, very early in his life he Latinized his German name, which meant 'merchant,' and changed it to the name by which we know him. Mercator means 'world trader.'
Mercator was a mapmaker, scholar, and religious thinker whose interests ranged from mathematics to calligraphy to the origin of the universe. In 1544 he fell victim to the Inquisition, partly due to his Protestant beliefs and partly due to suspicions aroused by his wide travels in search of data for his maps. He was fortunate to be released after seven months with the charges of heresy lifted—and head and limbs intact.
Mercator was one of the first mapmakers to cut up maps and bind them inside boards, later coining the term 'atlas' to refer to such collections of maps. He is best-known to us today for his celebrated cylindrical world map projection, first used in 1569, which enabled navigators to plot a long course in straight lines. One of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of cartography, Mercator's projection has greatly influenced our image of the world.


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