Nautilus

We Are All Ancient Mapmakers

In the first half of the sixth century B.C., a Greek man named Anaximander, born in Turkey, sketched the world in a way no one had previously thought to do. It featured a circle, divided into three equal parts. He labeled those parts Europe, Asia, and Libya, and separated them by the great waterways of the Nile, the Phasis river, and the Mediterranean. To call it a map would perhaps be a bit overgenerous. It was really more of a schematic. But it nonetheless represented a crucial innovation. Anaximander had rendered the world in a way that no person had ever seen it before: from above.

Anaximander’s sketch wasn’t especially useful as a cartographic instrument, and it also came with some peculiar conceptual baggage. He believed the earth sat atop a column, following the architectural sensibilities of the day. It was Plato, several hundred years later, who proposed the idea of a spherical earth. He had no strong, principled reason to do this; the guy just liked spheres. But though they were fascinated by the shape of the earth, neither Plato nor Anaximander, nor even Aristotle, can count among their accolades credit for creating the first scientific map of the world. That distinction falls to a North African man by the name of Eratosthenes.

Eratosthenes is best known today as the founder of the field of geography. He coined the term in his magnum opus, , published during his tenure as the head librarian at Alexandria, sometime between 240 and 220 B.C. It was three books in length and covered topics ranging from climate zones to the geological

Citiți o mostră, înregistrați-vă pentru a citi în continuare.

Mai multe de la Nautilus

Nautilus8 min citite
Blackout In The Brain Lab: What will happen to the organoids? A work of fiction.
When the power goes out, the two young scientists are plunged into pitch blackness. After exclamations and fumbling they turn their phone lights on, creating bisecting cones that spear wildly at the darkness and dance over the ceiling. “I guess they
Nautilus12 min cititeBiology
The Vast Viral World: What We Know (and Don’t Know): Exploring the minuscule and mysterious world of viruses.
Slightly ovoid in shape and somewhat blurred at the edges, the black splotches were scattered across a mottled gray background, looking much like a postmodern painting. At a meeting of the Medical Society of Berlin in 1938, Helmut Ruska, a German phy
Nautilus13 min citite
I Have Come to Bury Ayn Rand: A prominent evolutionary biologist slays the beast of Individualism.
My father, Sloan Wilson, wrote novels that would help define 1950s America. I loved and admired him, but the prospect of following in the footsteps of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and A Summer Place was like being expected to climb Mount Everest.