Sunday, March 4, 2012

This Day in History March 5, 1512

You have to love this name!  On this date in 1512, Gerardus Mercator was born in Dumpelunde, Flanders (Belgium).  Never heard of him?  Neither had I.  He was a calligrapher, cartographer, and a scientist.  He is known for making maps of the world and the stars.  Astronomy is something he actually studied privately.
Mathematics was also one of his disciplines.

In 1586, he perfected Mercator projection, in which parallels and meridians are rendered as straight lines spaced so as to produce at any point an accurate ratio of latitude to longitude.  

This is his map of the world from 1538.  

Okay, I found something that truly caught my attention.  He was arrested for heresy in 1544 and spent seven months in prison.  Why, you might ask? He was a Protestant, and he traveled widely to gather the information for his maps.  Some of the people arrested on similar suspicions at this time were buried alive or burned at the stake.  When they searched his house, there was nothing that showed he was anything but Roman Catholic.  It was the support of the University of Lovain that mainly responsible for his release.

On May 5, 1590, he suffered a stroke, and by 1592, he was nearly blind. In 1593, he suffered another stroke which took away his speech.  He died December 2, 1594 after suffering a third stroke.  Through all this, he kept trying to work and fought hard to live.  

For more information on this fascinating character, please check out:


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