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.
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.
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.
Hecataeus (c. 550 BC–c. 476 BC), named after goddess Hecate, was a Greek philosopher, and a native of Miletus. He flourished during the time of the Persian invasion. After having travelled extensively, he settled in his native city, where he occupied a high position, and devoted his time to the composition of geographical and historical works. Hecataeus is the first known Greek historian, and was one of the first classical writers to mention the Celtic people.
Some have credited Hecataeus with a work entitled Ges Periodos ("Travels round the Earth" or "World Survey"), a point-to-point coastal survey. One on Europe, is essentially a periplus of the Mediterranean, reaching as far north as Scythia. The other book, on Asia, is arranged similarly to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea of which a version of the 1st century CE survives. The descriptive matter was accompanied by a map, based upon Anaximander’s map of the earth.
||Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.
—Stanley Wolpert, 1984, about Muhammad Ali Jinnah
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