Portal:Atlas

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The Atlas Portal

Political and physical world map from the end of 2005

An atlas is a collection of maps, traditionally bound into book form, but now found in multimedia formats. As well as geographic features and political boundaries, many often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics.

The first book that could be called an atlas was constructed from the calculations of Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek geographer working in Alexandria circa A.D. 150. The first edition was published in Bologna in 1477 and was illustrated with a set of 27 maps, though scholars say that it is not known whether the printed maps were engraved versions of original maps made by Ptolemy, or whether they were constructed by medieval Greek scholars from Ptolemy's text.

Atlas of Greek mythology

The origin of the term atlas is a common source of misconception, perhaps because two different mythical figures named 'Atlas' are associated with mapmaking. King Atlas, a mythical King of Mauretania, was, according to legend, a wise philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who supposedly made the first celestial globe. However, the more widely known Atlas is a figure from Greek mythology.

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Antarctica
Credit: NASA
Antarctica, the continent surrounding the Earth's South Pole, is the coldest place on earth and is almost entirely covered by ice. Antarctica was discovered in late January 1820. Too cold and dry to support virtually any vascular plants, Antarctica's flora presently consists of around 250 lichens, 100 mosses, 25-30 liverworts, and around 700 terrestrial and aquatic algal species.

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Animated Dymaxion projection

A map projection is any method used in cartography to represent the two-dimensional curved surface of the earth or other body on a plane. The term "projection" here refers to any function defined on the earth's surface and with values on the plane, and not necessarily a geometric projection.

Flat maps could not exist without map projections, because a sphere cannot be laid flat over a plane without distortions. One can see this mathematically as a consequence of Gauss's Theorema Egregium. Flat maps can be more useful than globes in many situations: they are more compact and easier to store; they readily accommodate an enormous range of scales; they are viewed easily on computer displays; they can facilitate measuring properties of the terrain being mapped; they can show larger portions of the earth's surface at once; and they are cheaper to produce and transport. These useful traits of flat maps motivate the development of map projections.

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Piri Reis' map of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, and North Africa

Piri Reis (full name Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed) was an Ottoman-Turkish admiral and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470 in Gallipoli on the Aegean coast of Turkey.

He is primarily known today for his maps and charts collected in his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation), a book which contains detailed information on navigation as well as extremely accurate charts describing the important ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea. He gained fame as a cartographer when a small part of his first world map (prepared in 1513) was discovered in 1929 at Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. The most surprising aspect was the presence of the Americas on an Ottoman map, making it the first Turkish map ever drawn of the Americas.

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