I recall my 3rd grade epiphany when I happened to look at the huge canvas map of the world hanging on the classroom wall. I saw that the western edge of North and South America fit exactly into the eastern edge of Africa. I asked the teacher about it and she said it was a coincidence. Not so. Years later I learned the continents were once connected exactly there and together the large land mass was called Pangaea. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been drawn to maps. Not for the places and roads on them, but because of their shapes within shapes. For other people, it was all about the places.
Here’s an interesting timeline of geographic history, streamlined to fit a morning blog post:
- The first city map ever discovered was created in stone in 2300 BCE for the city of Lagash, Mesopotamia.
- In 450 Herodotus compiled a map of the known world.
- In 334 Alexander the Great set to conquering the Middle East and India.
- In 240 Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth.
- In 20 AD Greek geographer Strabo published his 17 volume Geography.
- In 77 AD Pliny the Elder wrote his Encyclopedia of Geography.
- In 150 Ptolmy the Greco-Egyptian polymath published his Geography that included a coordinate grid system a map and places labeled.
- In 1154 Edrisi the Arabic scholar published his book of world geography. He was famous for his planisphere— the most accurate map of Europe, north Africa and western Asia.
- In 1410 A translation of Ptolemy’s Geography was published in Europe
- 1418 Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator established the Sagres Research Institute.
Collectively, the 1400 and 1500s were big in geography. Spanish and Portuguese explorers made new and profitable discoveries. They also established trading posts in the new world and throughout Africa. Magellan began his circumnavigation of the earth.
- In 1569 Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator created his map and coined the word Atlas for a collection of maps.
- In 1675 the Royal Observatory was established at Greenwich, England. This is important because here we have the Prime Meridian –longitude defined at 0°.
- In 1714 the British government offered a 20,000£ reward to anyone who could accurately determine longitude at sea. It’s all about time.
- In 1761 John Harrison’s chronometer did just that — accurately determined longitude at sea.
- In 1768-1779 James Cook explored the earth.
- In 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark explored the western United States.
- In 1817 German geographer Karl Ritter published his first volume of Die Erkunde (The Explorers).
- In 1830 the Royal Geographical Society was formed in London.
- In 1840 the Geological Survey of Canada was established.
- In 1850 the first use of the camera for mapping takes place in France.
- In 1851 the American Geographical Society was formed.
- In 1855 Matthew Fontaine Maury, the “father of naval oceanography” publishes his Physical Geography of the Sea.
- In 1867 the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was established.
- In 1874 the first Department of Geography was established in Germany.
- In 1884-1885 Berlin Conference divides Africa among European colonial powers.
On this day in 1888 the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and education institution was founded for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” We know this as The National Geographic Society. It was conceived by a diverse group of geographers, explorers, teachers, cartographers, military officers, and financiers who all shared an interest in scientific and geographical knowledge. They felt “Americans were becoming more curious about the world around them.” Indeed, that magazine, and all that went with it, opened the door to the world for many a rural American. Oh for those days when an ignorant population didn’t equate education with elitist snobbery, but as a way to better oneself and the lives of their children.
Phraseology I often wonder where certain words and sayings come from. For the next few weeks this word collector will be examining some familiar phrases to get at their heart. I think you’ll be surprised.
The phrase for today is ~ Here be Dragons
It’s a fanciful phrase today, but it has more to do with the terrifying unknown than lighthearted dragon mythology. It was common practice among map makers to jazz up their uncharted seas and grounds with pictures of fantastic and often terrifying beasts. Remember, the earth was flat in their minds. They knew of whales and giant squid so those unknown things that lay beyond the edges had to be even more frightful.
One such map was the copper Lenox Globe (circa mid-1500s). Written on the eastern coast of Asia, the globe says “hic sunt dracones” and from Latin that translates to Here are dragons.
Today is Author Janice Seagraves’ blog day. http://romancebooks4us.blogspot.com/
Romance Books ‘4’ Us ~ Our February contest is coming up. http://www.romancebooks4us.com
If you enjoy my daily musings, subscribe to get them sent to your inbox, or if your inbox is as packed as mine is, check out the Networked Blogs tab on the right and get all the blogs you follow in one daily notice. A new year full of curious and compelling posts awaits!
Sample my scorching love stories for free!