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Concept# Mercator projection

Summary

The Mercator projection (mərˈkeɪtər) is a cylindrical map projection presented by Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It became the standard map projection for navigation because it is unique in representing north as up and south as down everywhere while preserving local directions and shapes. The map is thereby conformal. As a side effect, the Mercator projection inflates the size of objects away from the equator. This inflation is very small near the equator but accelerates with increasing latitude to become infinite at the poles. As a result, landmasses such as Greenland, Antarctica, Canada and Russia appear far larger than they actually are relative to landmasses near the equator, such as Central Africa.
There is some controversy over the origins of the Mercator. German polymath Erhard Etzlaub engraved miniature "compass maps" (about 10×8 cm) of Europe and parts of Africa that spanned latitudes 0°–67° to allow adjustment of his portable pocket-size sundials. The projection found on these maps, dating to 1511, was stated by John Snyder in 1987 to be the same projection as Mercator's. However, given the geometry of a sundial, these maps may well have been based on the similar central cylindrical projection, a limiting case of the gnomonic projection, which is the basis for a sundial. Snyder amended his assessment to "a similar projection" in 1993.
Joseph Needham, a historian of China, wrote that the Chinese developed the Mercator projection hundreds of years before Mercator did, using it in star charts during the Song Dynasty. However, this was a simple, and common, case of misidentification. The projection in use was the equirectangular projection.
Portuguese mathematician and cosmographer Pedro Nunes first described the mathematical principle of the loxodrome and its use in marine navigation. In 1537, he proposed constructing a nautical atlas composed of several large-scale sheets in the cylindrical equidistant projection as a way to minimize distortion of directions.

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