From the beginning, mapmakers have had to contend with the problems inherent in translating the surface of a three-dimensional spherical object (the Earth) to the flat plane of a map. Barry Evans at The North Coast Journal takes a look at the “tearing” versus “stretching” methods of map-drawing, as epitomized in Bucky’s Dymaxion Map and the Mercator Projection, respectively.
The Mapmaker’s Dilemma – By Barry Evans
If you’re over 50, chances are the obligatory world maps hanging in your classrooms were based on the Mercator projection. You probably remember it: Greenland, which is 14 times smaller than Africa, appears to be the same size as the continent. And Europe looks twice as large as South America, instead of half the size, as it really is.
Dutchman Gerard Mercator, as smart a businessman as he was a mapmaker, would have been appalled if he knew his map projection was used to educate children in geography, since it was never intended as anything like an accurate depiction of the globe.
The English title of his 1569 map (the first world map to use what we now call the Mercator projection) is “A New and Enlarged Description of the Earth with Corrections for Use in Navigation.” Continue reading