Skip to content

Search the Roberta Bondar Site

Shaping the Globe

On March 5, 1512, Gerhard Mercator was born in Flanders. He received as fine an education as he could from church tutors and used this formal education and his selection of master craftsmen to work with to become a cross-discipline 16th century businessman – a cartographer, calligrapher, engraver, scientific instrument and globe maker, and map merchant.

First employed in engraving gradations and labels on brass and copper, Mercator next helped produce flat maps. He gained exposure to many charts of the world’s lands as they were known and produced some of these maps on gores or sections to glue over papier-mâché globes. Mercator moved quickly into his own map authorship, developing a world map as a cordiform or double heart-shaped projection that fit the globe shape perfectly… and in only two pieces.

He was the first to identify the New World as two continents. Because Mercator liked to add new source materials to his maps, he took increasingly long lengths of time to finish them. His sons assisted Mercator in his last decades and completed his book of world maps after his death, naming the work after Atlas, the Titan in Greek mythology, who carried the world on his shoulders.

Mercator’s famous map projection continues its excellent service to this day. The name he chose for his book of maps has now become the word we use for any and all books of maps – an Atlas.

Mercator’s image appears throughout the world on statues, stamps, and objects related to mapmaking. Over the centuries his very name has come to represent distinction in world coverage to such an extent that travel, transportation, mapping, maths, and software industries choose to include Mercator in their company names for its global cachet.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage