Gerardus MercatorGerardus
Mercator (1512-1594) was a great Renaissance cartographer whose work
shaped the identity of the modern world. Using the latest reports of
new discoveries, he created innovative maps which became known
throughout Europe. A creative and skillful craftsman, he invented the
map projection which bears his name and coined the term “atlas”. His
first map made history: it was the first to use the term North America
and the first to depict the New World as stretching from the northern
to the southern hemisphere.

Mercator was born in 1512 in Flanders as Gerard de Cremere, but
adopted the name Gerardus Mercator (which means merchant in Latin) as a
young man. He lived through the turbulent years of the Reformation and
participated in fierce intellectual battles. He was even jailed for
seven months on suspicion of being a Lutheran, although it appears that
he was actually a good Catholic. An interest in mathematics eventually
led him into map-making at a time when Europeans’ knowledge of the
globe was increasing at an unprecedented rate.

In 1569 he created the first Mercator projection: a wall map of the
world on 18 separate sheets entitled: “New and more complete
representation of the terrestrial globe properly adapted for its use in
navigation”. Its novel feature was that lines of longitude, latitude
and rhomb lines all appeared as straight lines on the map. Its defect,
of course, was that the land masses at the top and bottom are enlarged
and distorted. Nonetheless it became essential for hardy souls
venturing upon unknown seas in search of wealth, knowledge, and

Mercator's life and work are metaphors for what we aspire to:
craftsmanship, setting accurate courses, opening up new worlds and
venturing upon stormy, uncharted seas. His maps were accurate in the
center and distorted at either side — a good image of Mercatornet’s
editorial policy of balance and accuracy.