How did Mercator create a map

geography Maps distort our view of the world

Greenland is a huge white island up in the north, four times the size of little India, and Russia is the largest country in the world and larger than the whole of Africa - generations of students who looked at world maps by Hermann Haack from Gotha gained this impression , or any other representation of the earth based on the projection of the Belgian Gerhard Mercator. The problem with that: In reality, the relationship is reversed. With around 3.3 million square kilometers, the Indian subcontinent has around a third more area than the Arctic island, which is only around 2.2 million square kilometers in size. And Russia is only a little over half the size of Africa.

Different worldview in Boston / USA

So should we change our view of the world? It is worth a try, the Boston school board decided in 2017. As of this year, students in the city on the US east coast have been learning with a different representation of the world. Instead of a Mercator projection, a world map based on the Bremen cartographer Arno Peters is used in all public schools. It depicts the country areas true to scale, so it is true to area. The Boston authority argues that the next generation should no longer develop a worldview that puts Europe at the center and makes it bigger than it really is.

How does the distorted view of the world come about?

However, the Belgian Mercator had no intention of artificially enlarging Europe, India, Russia or Germany. Rather, the basic problem is: the surface of a sphere cannot be represented as a two-dimensional surface without distorting the relationships. This becomes vivid with the example of an orange. If you press a peeled bowl flat on the table, cracks quickly appear. Mercator's map, in turn, stretched the shell of the earth on a cylinder. With this representation, surfaces widen the closer they are to the poles. With Mercator maps, the proportions are only correct at the equator.