Did you know the Mercator projection on maps really messes up your idea about size? The cylindrical map projection of the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator (presented in 1569) is the standard map projection nowadays. While the linear scale is equal in all directions around any point, thus preserving the angles and the shapes of small objects (which makes the projection conformal), the Mercator projection distorts the size and shape of large objects, as the scale increases from the Equator to the poles, where it becomes infinite. Get it? Well, check out this puzzle to understand the real impact of what you’ve just read. Impressive!
Today is the 500th birthday of cartography hotshot Gerardus Mercator who the Dutch love to claim as a ‘sort of Dutch’ cartographer. He was born in the Low Countries in 1512, but his birth town is in Belgium. So credits for the Mercator projection will have to go to our neighbours: la Belgique, 12 points! To celebrate his birthday various activities will take place throughout the year. The Mercator2012 project will keep you updated about the diversity of projects during 2012.
So, drink one on Mercator tonight, because he is a figure of big importance for map making. Happy mapping Gerardus!