Essay about Map Projection and Dr. Arno Peters

Submitted By ilovenoodle5
Words: 3322
Pages: 14

Map Wars

Ben Glasgow
Nazareth College

This paper explores the influence of cartography over the past 500 years by researching and examining the Mercator projection map and the Peters projection map debate, and their possible relationships to global socio-political inequality, systemic forces, and the evidence that supports Mercator’s possible ulterior imperialistic agenda. Through further investigation and research, this paper will touch upon how the world of cartography reacted to such progressive and bold assertions, both positive and negative, as well as the merit behind such radical notions. Pertaining to the classroom, this paper will examine whether such proclamations should be addressed in the confines of the classroom with the goal of creating a non-biased learning environment by educating our students about the myriad approaches to cartography, as well as clarifying their various uses while emphasizing the number of ways to view our planet by utilizing maps for their inceptive and particular uses, as there is no such map that should be used more so than any other. Keywords: Cartography, Peters Projection, Mercator projection, Imperialism

Map Wars
In 1974, Dr. Arno Peters at a Press Conference held in Germany, revealed for the first time the Peters projection map, creating an uproar, followed closely by a heated debate that has lasted to this day as it highlighted the traditional map of the world, the Mercator projection, as an untrue and biased representation of the world, claiming that it emphasized an Imperialistic agenda, and inferred a top and bottom preference of the world atlas created by the north and south hemispheres of the world. Even though the Mercator projection has been used for educational and navigation purposes for over 400 years, the Peters projection map (Figure 2, p.6) has been adopted by UNICEF and other United Nation units as a true map of the world. When asked why a historian would undertake such a challenging cartographic problem, Peter's replied, "I ran into this problem as I prepared an atlas to (look at) history. Because my world history brings to mind people of the 'Third World' (Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Indians, Chinese) as the originators of the culture of Man, I could not use a world map like the Mercator [which] shows the countries of these people in a size much too small for their importance in history (“The Peters Projection”, 2010).”
Gerard Kremer, who later decided to use the Latin version of his name, Mercator, was born in 1512, and raised in the "low countries" of Europe. Although these areas were poor and unsettled, they were still regarded as the vital center of the trading route, connecting England to the Western coast of Europe. At the time, map making was a very slow and difficult ordeal, but Mercator was able to build a unique reputation for being the prominent geographer of the century without ever having gone to sea (Monmonier, 2004). Due to this, Mercator utilized surveys made by other travelers to carefully create his cartography. During this time in history, the act of creating and publishing a map was considered just as bold as broadcasting one’s own religious opinions, and in 1544, Mercator was imprisoned for nearly 8 months on charges of heresy (“The Peters Projection”, 2010). Only upon his release was he confronted with the historic question; how is a cartographer to strip the planet of its spherical shape and lay it down flat with an “acceptable” amount of distortion? This being a common problem amongst cartographers since they had come to an agreement that the world was in fact round, Mercator knew what mariners wanted; the easiest course for a sailor to steer using only their compass, where as such a use for a spherical map would lead ships into a “very mathematically tricky spiral (2010).” More simply stated, the Mercator map became a godsend for navigators as it provided sailors with…