Satellite images from NASA were grafted onto the famous Mercator projection to create this image. Although useful for navigators, the Mercator projection is not an accurate representation of land area--the size of Greenland and Antarctica are enormously exaggerated!

Map by Mdf, courtesy Wikimedia.

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  • On December 2, 1594, German geographer Gerardus Mercator died. Mercator enjoyed a long life as a pioneer in the field of cartography, the art and science of reading and making maps. Cartographers like Mercator had to be experts in geography, engraving, writing, and mathematics. Maps took months or years to make, and were very valuable to political, spiritual, and scientific leaders.
    Mercator was responsible for many improvements for mapping. He is best-known for developing one of the most common map projections—the Mercator projection. A projection is a way to represent a curved shape on a flat surface. All map projections distort the curved surface of Earth—islands bend out of shape, directions get skewed, and objects of the same size are stretched differently.
    Any straight line drawn on the Mercator projection will match a compass direction perfectly. This makes it ideally suited for navigation—a key asset in the Age of Discovery. For explorers, a map that could tell them where they were going (and where they’d been) was very important!
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    asset Noun

    property or another valuable item that is possessed by someone.

    cartography Noun

    art and science of making maps.

    compass Noun

    instrument used to tell direction.

    Encyclopedic Entry: compass
    distort Verb

    to deform or misrepresent.

    engraving Noun

    image produced by cutting into the surface of an object.

    explorer Noun

    person who studies unknown areas.

    geographer Noun

    person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    map Noun

    symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: map
    map projection Noun

    method by which shapes on a globe are transferred to a flat surface.

    mathematics Noun

    study of the relationships between numbers, quantities, shapes, and spaces.

    navigation Noun

    art and science of determining an object's position, course, and distance traveled.

    Encyclopedic Entry: navigation
    political Adjective

    having to do with public policy, government, administration, or elected office.

    responsible Adjective

    having accountability, authority, or liability in a situation.

    spiritual Adjective

    having to do with religion or faith.