Considered by many to be the greatest cartographer of early modern
times, Gerardus Mercator was born Gerhard Kremer of German parents
in the town of Rapelmonde near Antwerp on March 5, 1512.
Like many other intellectuals of his time, very early in his life
he Latinized his German name, which meant 'merchant,' and changed
it to the name by which we know him. Mercator means
Mercator was a mapmaker, scholar, and religious thinker
whose interests ranged from mathematics to calligraphy to the
origin of the universe. In 1544 he fell victim to the
Inquisition, partly due to his Protestant beliefs and partly
due to suspicions aroused by his wide travels in search of
data for his maps. He was fortunate to be released after seven
months with the charges of heresy liftedand head and
Mercator was one of the first mapmakers to cut up maps and bind
them inside boards, later coining the term 'atlas' to refer
to such collections of maps. He is best-known to us today for his
celebrated cylindrical world map projection, first used in 1569,
which enabled navigators to plot a long course in straight lines.
One of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of
cartography, Mercator's projection has greatly influenced our
image of the world.