Emil von Sydow

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Emil von Sydow (July 15, 1812 - October 13, 1873) was a German geographer and cartographer born in Freiberg, Saxony.

Early in his career he was a geography instructor at the military academy in Erfurt, later becoming director of statistics and geography to the Prussian General Staff in 1867.

He is considered to be the founder of methodical school cartography, and distinguished himself by creating his own wall maps for classroom instruction. In 1838 he produced a physical map of Asia in his "Schulmethodischer Wand Atlas" (Methodic Wall Atlas for Schools) that was soon followed by maps of other continents. On these maps, Sydow developed a color methodology for landscape features using hachures, where green was depicted for lowlands and brown used for highlands. Wilhelm Perthes (1793–1853) of the publishing firm "Justus Perthes Geographische Anstalt Gotha" was impressed with Sydow's work and in 1849 produced the latter's "Schulatlas in sechsunddreigig Karten" (Schoolatlas in 36 maps), a work that eventually ran to 39 editions by 1887.

After Sydow's death, Hermann Wagner (1840-1929), a geography professor at Göttingen, designed the "Sydow-Wagner Methodischer Schulatlas" (Sydow-Wagner Methodical School Atlas) with 60 major and 50 inset maps.


  • [1] Origins of School Cartography