history of mapping technologies - Rowan University

Earliest Known maps
The earliest known maps are of the heavens, not the earth. Dots dating to 16,500 BCE
found on the walls of the Lascaux caves map out part of the night sky. Associated with
the animal drawings are also track lines and tallies thought to depict migration routes.
While simplistic in comparison to modern technologies, these early records mimic the
two-element structure of modern GIS, an image associated with attribute information.
Babylonian Map of the World
As civilizations emerged, mapping also developed. This is a clay tablet from Babylon is
in the center of the map; parallel lines at the left seem to represent the southern
marshes, and a curved line coming from right appears to represent the Zagros
Mountains. There are seven small interior circles at the perimeter areas within the
circle, and they appear to represent seven cities.
Importance of Ancient Greece in Map Making
Greeks made an invaluable contribution to mapping and geography.
500 BCE – Hecataeus creates one of the first maps of the known world improving on
Anaximander. Hecatæus's map describes the earth as a circular plate with an encircling
Ocean and Greece in the centre of the world. The map shows the world divided into
two continents, Asia and Europe. He depicts the line between the Pillars of Hercules
through the Bosporus, and the Don River as a boundary between the two.
While the idea of a spherical earth was postulated by previous Greek
philosophers, including Pythagoras:
Aristotle (384–322 BCE)– proves that the earth is spherical with the
following evidence.
Lunar eclipse makes a circular shadow on the moon
Ships “sink” on the horizon
Some stars can be seen from some locations of the earth but not from others
Eratosthenes (275–195 BCE) was able to calculate the circumference of the
Earth to 99.5% accuracy by calculating the heights of shadows in Alexandria,
and further up the Nile, where a the sun shown straight down a well on the
summer solstice. He knew the distance between these to locations and the
height of the column and shadow in Alexandria. From this he calculated the
angular difference between the locations and extrapolated the distance to a
total of 360 degrees.
Ptolemy c. AD 30 revolutionized the depiction of the spherical earth on a map, and
suggested precise methods for fixing the position of geographic features on its surface
using a coordinate system with parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude.
Ptolemy's eight-volume atlas Geographia is a prototype of modern mapping and GIS. It
included an index of place-names, with the latitude and longitude of each place to guide
the search, scale, conventional signs with legends, and the practice of orienting maps so
that north is at the top and east to the right of the map—a universal custom today.
Chinese Mapping
In ancient China, geographical literature spans back to the 5th century BC. The oldest
extant Chinese maps come from the State of Qin, dated back to the 4th century BC. An
early Western Han Dynasty (202 BC – 9 AD) silk map found in tomb 3 of Mawangdui,
depicting the Kingdom of Changsha and Kingdom of Nanyue in southern China (note:
the south direction is oriented at the top, north at the bottom).
India Mapping
In India early forms of cartography of India included legendary paintings; maps of
locations described in Indian epic poetry.
Islamic Mapping
The Arab geographer, Muhammad al-Idrisi, produced his medieval atlas Tabula
Rogeriana in 1154. He incorporated the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the
Far East, gathered by Arab merchants and explorers with the information inherited
from the classical geographers to create the most accurate map of the world up until
his time. It remained the most accurate world map for the next three centuries.
Note that the north is at the bottom, and so the map appears "upside down" compared
to modern cartographic conventions.
European Mapping History
Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594) was a Flemish cartographer who in his quest to make
the world “look right” on the maps developed new projection (called Mercator
projection) using mathematical formulas. From then on, the image of the world that he
produced on his map from 1569 becomes a conventional view of the world that we are
accustomed today. This map was drawn by his son Romold in 1595.
Mapping and Colonization
In the Age of Exploration, from the 15th century to the 17th century, European
cartographers both copied earlier maps (some of which had been passed down for
centuries) and drew their own based on explorers' observations and new surveying
techniques. The invention of the magnetic compass, telescope and sextant enabled
increasing accuracy.
This nautical chart by Portuguese cartographer Pedro Reinel (1504c. 1504), one of the
first based on astronomical observations and to depict a scale of latitudes.
Mapping and scientific discovery
Maps have played an important role in scientific discovery.
Lewis and Clark
The famous map of Lewis and Clark's expedition. It changed mapping of northwest
America by providing the first accurate depiction of the relationship of the sources of
the Columbia and Missouri rivers, and the Rocky Mountains..
Evolution – Wallace Line , biogeography
Alfred Russell Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, helped to develop the theory of
evolution by creating a map of the world titled the Geographical Distribution of Animals.
The map which started the field of Biogegraphy, shows Wallace's six biogeographical
regions which is explained by evolutionary theory.
Epidemiology - John Snow 1854 map of cholera
John Snow began the science of medical epidemiology by using a spot map to illustrate
how cases of cholera were centered around the Broad Street pump in the London
epidemic of 1854.
Plate tectonics – Alfred Wegener
Alfred Wegener used mapping to postulate his theory of continental drift in the early
1900’s. Similar plant and animal fossils are found around different continent shores,
suggesting that they were once joined. Wegener’s idea was ridiculed by the majority of
the scientific community but he has since been proven correct.
Importance of Mapping in War Making
Cold War 1950’s– satellite spying film retrieval
Gulf War 1 – GPS extensively used
National Geodetic Survey
The USGS is America’s civil mapping agency. Created by an act of Congress on March 3,
1879. It was charged with the "classification of the public lands, and examination of the
geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain." This
task was driven by the need to inventory the vast lands added to the United States by
the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) defines and manages a national coordinate
system, providing the foundation for transportation and communication; mapping and
charting; and a multitude of scientific and engineering applications.
Aerial photography was first practiced by the French photographer and balloonist
Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as "Nadar", in 1858 over Paris, France..
First Satellite Imagery
First satellite photographs of Earth were made August 14, 1959 by the US satellite
Explorer 6. All satellite images produced by NASA are published by Earth Observatory
and are freely available to the public. Several other countries have satellite imaging
programs, and a collaborative European effort launched the ERS and Envisat satellites
carrying various sensors. There are also private companies that provide commercial
satellite imagery. Google now has their own satellite.
Computer Mapping Begins
The "Canada Geographic Information System" (CGIS) created in 1962 was the first GIS
and was used to store, analyze, and manipulate data collected for the Canada Land
GIS comes to Desktop Computing
By the early 1980s, commercial vendors of GIS software emerged, combining the first
generation approach to separation of spatial and attribute information with a second
generation approach to organizing attribute data into database structures.
2000’s web mapping matures
By the end of the 20th century, platforms and users were beginning to export the
concept of viewing GIS data over the Internet.
Google Earth, Google Maps – mashups
2005–06: Google Earth, The first version of Google Earth was released building on the
virtual globe metaphor. Terrain and buildings can be viewed 3 dimensionally. The KML
(XML based) markup language allows users to integrate their own personal content. This
virtual globe needs special software and doesn't run in a web browser.
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