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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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Featured map

The evolution of Canada's internal borders
Credit: Golbez
An animated image showing the territorial evolution of Canada, that is, the dates when each province and territory were created. Since it was formed, Canada's external borders have changed six times, and it has grown from four provinces to ten provinces and three territories. It has only lost territory in the small border dispute with the Dominion of Newfoundland over Labrador, which joined Canada some time later.

Selected article

Topographic map with isohypses of height

A contour line of a function of two variables is a curve along which the function has a constant value. In cartography, a contour line joins points of equal elevation above a given level, such as mean sea level. A contour map is a map illustrated with contour lines, for example a topographic map, which thus shows valleys and hills, and the steepness of slopes. The contour interval of a contour map is the difference in elevation between successive contour lines.

Contour lines are curved or straight lines on a map describing the intersection of a real or hypothetical surface with one or more horizontal planes. The configuration of these contours allows map readers to infer relative gradient of a parameter and estimate that parameter at specific places. Contour lines may be either traced on a visible three-dimensional model of the surface, as when a photogrammetrist viewing a stereo-model plots elevation contours, or interpolated from estimated surface elevations, as when a computer program threads contours through a network of observation points of area centroids. In the latter case, the method of interpolation affects the reliability of individual isolines and their portrayal of slope, pits and peaks.

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Selected biography

Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury (January 14, 1806 – February 1, 1873), USN - American astronomer, astrophysicist, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist, educator.

He was nicknamed Pathfinder of the Seas and Father of modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology and later, Scientist of the Seas, due to the publication of his extensive works in his books, especially Physical Geography of the Sea 1855, the first extensive and comprehensive book on oceanography to be published. Maury made many important new contributions to charting winds and ocean currents, including pathways for ships at sea. Maury's work on ocean currents led him to advocate his theory of the Northwest Passage, as well as the hypothesis that an area in the ocean near the North Pole is occasionally free of ice.

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Selected quote

Your map of Africa is really quite nice. But my map of Africa lies in Europe. Here is Russia, and here... is France, and we're in the middle — that's my map of Africa.

Otto von Bismarck, 1888


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WikiProject: Geography
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