How Did Mapmakers Create Map Projections Before Computers?

Before the development of computers, mapmakers made maps in various methods. For example, Lambert altered how a piece of paper made contact with the Earth. On a map, the place Lambert touched is today known as the Central Meridian. His approach also altered how a map’s longitude line crossed the map’s centre. This is referred to as Mercator’s projection. It has been used since then.

The Mercator map projection

Gerardus Mercator, a 15th-century European cartographer, created a massive planispheric map on 18 sheets spanning 202 by 124 cm. Mercator details the building of his map in great detail in his book, but he never explains how he came up with it. Nonetheless, the map’s popularity has risen, and the Mercator projection is now used on many maps.

Mercator’s map projection was not the first used by humans; Chinese mapmakers invented it in 1569. In reality, at the time, they were utilizing a different form of a map, a conic projection, which involves connecting the globe along its parallels. Conic projections are most suited for representing the mid-latitudes of continents, which is why the map of the United States utilizes one.

Conformal conic projection of Lambert

You may utilize Lambert’s Conformal Conic projection when creating a GIS map. Various Lambert projection modifications are tailored for different locations of the globe. You may choose the Lambert projection when accessing the projection interface in most GIS software. If you are new to this projection, you must learn about it before trying it yourself. The distinctions between Lambert’s Conformal Conic projection and its variations are listed below.

Lambert’s Conformal Conic projection is the typical projection for mid-latitude locations in an analogue world. Because it maintains forms near the Standard Parallels, it is ideally suited for usage on aviation charts. However, when you are far from the Standard Parallels, the Lambert Conformal Conic projection becomes very deformed. If you’re planning a journey, think about utilizing a non-conformal projection to map your route.

The ellipsoid of Mercator

Before computers, mapmakers used the ellipsoid formula to adapt the Mercator projection from the sphere. The ellipsoid equation (x and y replaced by comparable conformal latitudes) multiplied by the map’s scale constant is the formula for a Transverse Mercator projection (e).

Ellipsoid models underpin modern geodetic datums. These models are used in global positioning systems (GPS). Although ellipsoids have a similar centre, their surfaces differ. This indicates that you may find abstract points on Mercator’s ellipsoid, whilst you can find physical characteristics on Earth.

The cylindrical projection of the Mercator

In 1569, Mercator, a well-known geographer and mapmaker, devised a cylindrical projection of the globe. It was a sophisticated projection that blended mathematical knowledge with globe-making ability. Mercator was born in Rupelmonde, Flanders, 15 miles south of Antwerp, and attended a monastery school before entering university. During this period, he developed an interest in maps and studied mathematics at the University of Louvain.

One of the most used projections nowadays is Mercator’s cylindrical projection. Although some critics see it as a metaphor for geographical dispersion (Africa and South America seem much smaller than they are), the projection’s initial purpose was to help sailors navigate their ships. The projection enabled drawing straight lines with compasses by retaining the angles and utilizing the same measure.

The map of Waldseemuller

Before computers, the earliest known map of America was produced in 1507 by German geographer Martin Waldseemuller. He titled it Universalis cosmographic Secundum Ptholomaei tradition et America Vespucci aliorumque illustrations, indicating his intention to synthesise world knowledge by integrating traditional Ptolemaic geography with discoveries from the Western Hemisphere.

Although Waldseemuller never left Strasbourg, he imbued his map with the authority and understanding of a nautical chart. Vespucci’s projection of South America on his map would ultimately lead to his statement of competence in reaching the New World without the need for sea charts. He was also thought to be better at navigation than all other pilots of the time. But his forecast was incorrect. But, without a chart, how could he have known?