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 most often found in multimedia formats. As well as geographic features and political boundaries, many often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics.

The first known 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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Global Biosphere
Credit: SeaWiFS Project, NASA
Primary production is the production of biological organic compounds from inorganic materials through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis. Organisms that can create biomass in this manner (notably plants) are known as primary producers, and form the basis of the food chain. In oceanography and limnology the primary producers in aquatic environments are phytoplankton utilizing energy from sunlight.

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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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Ruysch's 1507 map of the world

Johannes Ruysch was an explorer, cartographer, astronomer, manuscript illustrator and painter from the Low Countries who produced a famous map of the world: the second oldest known printed representation of the New World. This Ruysch map was published and widely distributed in 1507.

In old documents Ruysch was sometimes called a Fleming or German, but he was likely born in Utrecht in the current Netherlands. It is thought that he accompanied John Cabot on his expedition to North America in 1497 and 1498. Ruysch's 1507 map of the world was included in the 1507 and 1508 southern editions of Ptolemy's Geographia, an atlas published in Rome.

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