Chronology of Cartography

Page last modified 28 September 2023


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List of useful cartographic resources � see also other pages on this site e.g. earthquakes, railways, weather, for more map URLs

Historical/changes - worldwide

Geacron, historical world map since 3000 BCE,

Historical Atlas of the 20th Century, social economic etc maps,

Timelapse Google Earth animated,

World (various areas) old maps free to view,

World Maps, various, historic,

Historical/changes - UK

Historic England aerial photos,

Britain from above (and some other countries) early aerial photos,

National Map Library of Scotland � town maps,

National Map Library of Scotland excellent source of old maps of UK,

World War Two 1-inch maps of England,


Energy infrastructure Global,,O,P,S,T,W

Gas supply, UK,

Infrastucture map, global (click on key symbol, RHS),

Mapping Tools

Grid Reference / Lat-Long Finder,

Grid Ref Finder, UK,|Tamworth|1,SU8474768094|Point_s_B|1,SK1795005648|Point_s_C|1

Postcode finder,

Trig Points UK, search for,

UK grid etc locations,


Bing Maps, worldwide modern street map,

Cartograms, world by sociodemographic,economic etc data,

City Maps,, wide range of world maps, cartograms,

Land Heights, global map,

LIDAR Finder,

LIDAR map of UK,

Mapco (London, UK, Australia and elsewhere),

Mapping tools, e.g. draw a circle,

Mapquest, worldwide modern street map,

Michelin Maps, worldwide modern street map,

NASA global environmental, demographic etc maps,

NASA global environmental maps,

Open Street Map, worldwide modern street map,

Ordnance Survey free outline maps UK, Europe,

Outline maps world, by country, region, continent,, also,

Sabre Maps, modern and historic,

Streetmap (modern UK road map),

Soviet maps (most of Eurasia), ca. 1960,

Texas (University of), huge map collection,

Vision of Britain (old maps, demographic data)


Other miscellaneous �different� maps.


5/2007, Google Streetview was launched.

2006, The UK Ordnance Survey finally dropped a policy instituted by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in 1927 that the OS maps should not show any defence-related infrastructure. To avoid �voids on the map�, natural features like contour lines and streams were still marked in. However there were still strange blank areas, that could easily be seen to be built on by observers. Finally the easy access to open source viewing online caused the OS to revoke this policy.

16 November 2005, The western world�s oldest map, dated to around 500 BCE, was discovered at an archaeological dig in southern Italy. The Soleto Map showed Apulia, and was on a small piece of terracotta vase.

5 March 2001, Centrica, the gas company which owns the Automobile Association, agreed to pay the Ordnance Survey �20 million in an out of court settlement for plagiarising their maps. The Ordnance Survey had proved their case by deliberately including subtle errors in their maps to trap plagiarists.

28 August 1996, Phyllis Pearce, who pioneered the modern London A-Z, died.

1989, The Ordnance Survey began using a computerised system for updating their maps.

22 February 1978, The first NAVSTAR satellite was launched, part of the Global Positioning System (GPS) network.

1973, Arno Peters, a German Marxist film maker, introduced an alternative world map projection to Mercator�s, which he condemned as �cartographic imperialism�. The Mercator projection, by maintaining longitiude and lkatitude at right angles up to the polar regions, greatly exaggerated the relative size of northern regions such as Europe relative to equatorial regions such as Africa. Peters� map enlarged the equatorial areas to produce true-area maps; however Scottish clergyman James Gall had produced a similar map projection in 1855.

1936, Phyllis Pearsall published the first London A-Z. She has spent 1935 walking 3,000 miles around London remapping it after being misditrected by the then latest available map, which had been published in 1918.

29 May 1936, The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics was founded.

25 September 1906, Phyllis Pearsall, who pioneered the modern London A-Z in 1936, was born.

1903, Charles Booth (born in Liverpool, 1840) completed the last of his famous socio-economic maps of London (begun 1890).

18 June 1898, Karl Gumbel, publisher of the first geological map of Bavaria in 1858, died (born 11 February1823).

29 March 1893, John Bartholomew, Scottish cartographer, died in London (born in Edinburgh 25 December 1831).

20 March 1889, Franz Hauer, geologist, who made the first geological map of Austro-Hungary in 1871, died (born 30 January 1822).

17 February1884, Heinrich Berghaus, German geographer, died in Stettin (born in Kleve 3 May 1797).

23 September 1878, August Heinrich Petermann, German cartographer, died in Gotha (born 16 April 1822)

22 September 1878, Sir Richard Griffith, who prepared several geological maps of Ireland (1st, 1815), died (born 20 September 1784).

10 August 1875, Karl Andree, German cartographer and geographer, died in Wildungen (born 20 October 1808 in Brunswick).

14 July1875, Wilhelm Dufour, Swiss General who mapped Geneva at 1:25,000 and went on to complete a survey of all of Switzerland at 1:100,000 between 1842 and 1865, died (born 15 September 1787).

12 July1872, Arnold Escher, Swiss geologist, died (born 8 June 1807). In 1852-53 he produced the first detailed geological map of Switzerland.

1871, First edition of Franz Hauer�s Geological Map of Austro-Hungary was punlished, covering Bosnia and Montenegro.

1866, Kim Chong Ho presented his detailed map of Korea to the Korean Regent. For his troubles he was thrown into prison for revealing information on the defence and security of the realm, where he soon died.

1 December 1866, Sir George Everest, British surveyor of India, died (born 4 July1790).

1858, Karl Gumbel produced the first geological map of Bavaria.

29 November 1856, Frederick Beechey, English explorer and cartographer, died (born in London 17 February1796).

24 October 1856, Pieter Melvill van Carnbee, Dutch cartographer of the East Indies, died (born 20 May 1816).

9 October 1852, Thomas Colby, director of the Ordnance Survey, who surveyed Ireland, died (born 1 September 1784)

14 March 1848, Adrian Balbi, Italian geographer, died 14 March 1848 in Padua (born in Venice 25 April 1782).

18 October 1845, Jacques Cassini died (born 30 June 1748). He completed his father�s map of France (published 1793), despite difficulties caused by the French Revolution.

15 April 1840, Thomas Drummond, who assisted in the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, died.

1837, The geological survey of Denmark was completed (begun 1835).

25 December 1831, John Bartholomew, Scottish cartographer, was born in Edinburgh (died in London 29 March 1893).

1826, German geologist Christian Leopold (born 25 April 1774) produced the first geological map of Germany.

1825, The French Corps Royal des Mines started fieldwork on the Carte Geological de France, which became the first national geological survey.

1823, The first geological survey of North Carolina was completed by Denison Olmstead.

11 February1823, Karl Gumbel, publisher of the first geological map of Bavaria in 1858, was born (died 18 June 1898).

18 April 1822, August Heinrich Petermann, German cartographer, was born (died 25 September 1878 in Gotha)

30 January 1822, Franz Hauer, geologist, who made the first geological map of Austro-Hungary in 1871, was born (died 20 March 1889).

20 May 1816, Pieter Melvill van Carnbee, Dutch cartographer of the East Indies, was born (died 24 October 1856).

1815, Sir Richard Griffith prepared the first geological map of Ireland. This map was improved by him in 1835, 1839, and 1854. He also assisted, from 1825, in the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, preparing a comprehensive boundary map of civil districts and boundary markers.

1811, Georges Cuvier and Alexandre Brogniart published a geological map of the Paris region.

1809, William Maclure published the first geological map of the eastern coast of the United States.

20 October 1808, Karl Andree, German cartographer and geographer, was born in Brunswick (died 10 August 1875 in Wildungen).

8 June 1807, Arnold Escher, Swiss geologist, was born (died 12 July1872). In 1852-53 he produced the first detailed geological map of Switzerland.

10 April 1802,The Great Trignometrical Survey of India, a project conceived in 1799, actually began. Lieutenant William Lambton was in charge; he estanblsied a baseline in Madras. He died in 1823 and the project was continued by George Everest, who extended the trigonometric survey up to the Himalayas in 1843, then retired. This survey now covered 21 degrees latitude south to north, The British-produced maps were somewhat colonial in that, for example,the 1842 �Calcutta� map showed banks and police stations, but not temples or mosques.


Start of the British Ordnance Survey, 1747-1858

1858, The Ordnance Survey chose the scale of 1:2,500 for mapping England and Wales.

1841, The UK passed the Ordnance Survey Act, formally establishing the agency.

1824, The Ordnance Survey began mapping Ireland, under the leadership of Major General Thomas F Colby, but ran into a major problem. Persistent mists,which unlike in Britain did not clear by mid-morning. Thomas Drummond solved the problem with a �pea-light�, a pellet of lime (calcium oxide) which burnt with an intense light that could be seen at a long distance through fog or drizzle. This gave rise to the term �limelight�. The triangulation began on the shores of Lough Foyle, which was close enough to Scotland to facilitate a continuation of the triangulation from there.

1801, The first of the 1-inch to 1-mile Ordnance Survey maps of Britain were issued, starting with the county of Kent.

1795, The Hydrographical Office was founded in London by order of King George III. From 1839 it was lknown by its present name of the UK Hydrographical Office, or UKHO. It was responsible for producing and printing naval charts, as an arm of the Royal Navy.

21 June 1791, The Ordnance Survey, Britain�s mapping service, was created. See 1841. On this day a payment of �373, 14 shillings was made to Jesse Ramsden for the construction of a �great theodolite�, 3 feet in diameter and weighing 200 pounds (90 kilogrammes) for the purpose of making precise military maps of Britain. The need for this had been foreseen in 1763 by William Roy, amidst fears of invasion from France and a lack of reliable maps for the military. In 1765 William Roy (died 1790) was appointed to survey all of Britain�s coastal areas. By 1784 UK-France relations had improved and cross-Channel efforts were being made to establish the longitude and latitude of Greenwich and Paris. In 1800 the first cartographical unit of the British Army, the Corps of Royal Military Draughtsmen, was formed, based at the Tower of London.

1784, The baseline of first trigonometrical survey of England was laid down on Hounslow Heath, Middlesex.

1747, Following the Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland of 1745, the British Government saw the need for an accurate map of the whole of Scotland, not just of the great castles fortresses and estates as existed then. Under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel David Watson, General William Roy began a survey of all Scotland. This was completed in 1755, at a scale of 1000 yards to an inch (1:36,000).


3 May 1797, Heinrich Berghaus, German geographer, was born in Kleve (died in Stettin 17 February1884).

17 February1796, Frederick Beechey, English explorer and cartographer, was born in London (died 29 November 1856).

1793, William Smith, born Churchill, England, 23 March 1769, published the first large-scale geological map of England.

1 July 1790, Rob Roy, notable surveyor, died (born 1726)

20 September 1784, Sir Richard Griffith, who prepared several geological maps of Ireland (1st, 1815), was born (died 22 September 1878).

4 September 1784, Cesar Cassini died (born 17 June 1714). In 1744 he began surveying for a map of France.

1 September 1784, Thomas Colby, director of the Ordnance Survey, who surveyed Ireland, was born (died 9 October 1852)

1783, The first map of the USA as a new nation was produced by Abel Buell.

25 April 1782, Adrian Balbi, Italian geographer, was born in Venice (died 14 March 1848 in Padua).

1779, A systematic triangulation survey of Norway was begun.

27 January 1773, Death of Philippe Buache, cartographer who invented contour lines on maps.

1766, German physicist Johan Carl Wilcke (born Mecklenburg 6 September 1732) produced the first charts of magnetic declination.

30 June 1748, Jacques Cassini was born (died 18/101845). He completed his father�s map of France (published 1793), despite difficulties caused by the French Revolution.

1746, Jean Etienne Guettard drew the first geological map of France.

1744, Cesar Francois Cassini (born 17 June 1714 in Thury, France) directed the first triangulation survey of France. This wasthe first map produced on modern principles.

1743, Christopher Packe produced A new philosophical chart of east Kent; the first geological map.

1733, France began a major cartographical survey of the whole country, from which a national series of maps, 78 sheets, was produced in 1745.

17 June 1714, Cesar Cassini was born (died 4 September 1784). In 1744 he began surveying for a map of France.

2 February1712, Martin Lister, pioneer of geological mapping, died.

16 January 1710, Jean Chazelles, French hydrographer, died (born 24 July1657). He surveyed the French coast.

1707, Jesuit missionaries produced an accurate map of China.

1700, Edmund Halley published magnetic charts ofthe Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, showing lines of equal magnetic variation.

11 July1697, Jean Anville, French cartographer, was born in Paris (died 1781).

1675, English mapmaker John Ogilby produced Britannia, the first road map of Britain showing rivers, bridges and towns.

24 July1657, Jean Chazelles, French hydrographer, was born (died 16 January 1710). He surveyed the French coast.

28 July 1629, John Speed, English cartographer, died in London (born 1552 in Cheshire)

1617, Use of trigonometric triangulation for cartography was developed by Willebrod Snellius.

28 June 1598, Abraham Ortelius, cartographer, died aged 72.

2 December 1594, Gerard Mercator, Flemish geographer and cartographer, died in Duisberg, aged 82. He projected the world map onto a flat surface using lines of longitude and latitude.

1579, Christopher Saxton published an atlas of the first large scale maps of England and Wales, in the form of county maps, a work he began in 1575.

20 May 1570, Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius produced the first modern-style atlas, entitled �Theatre of the World�.

1568, Mercator invented the map projection that bears his name.

1563, Mercator produced the first detailed map of Lorraine.

1551, The theodolite (surveying telescope) was invented by Leonard Digges. The invention was only publicised by his son, Thomas, in 1571.

1550, The first street map of London was produced.

1545, Geraldus Mercator stated that the Earth had a Magnetic Pole.

1541, The Spanish made the first accurate map of California, determining that it was a peninsula and not an island as had been previously supposed.

1524, The first textbook on theoretical Geography, Cosmographia, was produced by Peter Bennewitz, German professor of mathematics.

1515, The first globe to show the Americas was constructed, by Johannes Sehoner (born 16 January 1477 in Karlstadt, Germany).

1513, Waldseemuller produced a world atlas with 200 maps.

5 March 1512, Gerardus Mercator, Flemish cartographer, was born in Flanders, as Gerhard Kremer.

1507, Waldemuller published his 12 gores for a globe, showing the southern continent of the Americas.

1492, Martin Behaim made the first globe map of the Earth � omitting the soon-to-be-discovered Americas and Pacific Ocean.

16 January 1477, Georgrapher Johannes Schoner was born in Karlstadt, Germany. In 1515 he constructed the forst globe showing the Americas.

1397, Physician and mapmaker Paolo Toscanelli was born in Florence, Italy. It was his incorrect map, showing Asia just 3,000 miles west of Europe, that persuaded Columbus to sail west from Europe. This error was based on Ptolemy�s calculations, which underestimated the size of Earth and therefore suggested that Europe and Asia together stretched for 180 degrees, rather than the true value of 130 degrees.

1314, The Mappa Mundi was produced, a map of the world with Jerusalem at its centre.

1300, Rhumb lines came into use for sea charts. They are lines of constant bearing relative to North; fanning out from ports, they helped sailors find their way back to port when on open sea. The name derives from the Spanish rumbos, a bearing.

1158, The world�s earliest known printed map was produced, showing western China.

1120, Walcher of Malvern pioneered the use of degrees, minutes and seconds to measure latitude and longitude.

271, Death of Chinese cartographer Pei Xiu (born 224). He pioneered the �six principles� of cartography � scale, location reference, distance, elevation, direction and gradient. Because he did not draw maps covering large areas, he did not tackle the map projection issues of co-ordinates on a curved surface.

115, In China, Zhang Heng developed the use of grid references for pinpointing locations on a map.

250 BCE, Oldest known maps produced in China.

2250 BCE, The first city map was produced. It showed Lagash in Mesopotamia.

2350 BCE, Maps were produced by Sargon of Akkad, for taxation purposes.

15,000 BCE, The earliest artefact with a map was produced. Found in Mexhirich, Russia, it appears to show the immediate area around which it was found.


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