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Cartography - What Is A Map?, The History Of Cartography, Types Of Maps, Geographic Illustrations, Map Making - Showing three-dimensional relationships in two dimensions

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Calcium Sulfate to Categorical imperative

Cartography is the creation, production, and study of maps. Cartographers are often geographers who specialize in the combination of art, science, and technology to make and study maps. Some cartographers teach mapmaking skills and techniques, some design and produce maps, and some are curators of map libraries. All cartographers, however, focus on maps as the object of their study or livelihood. In other cases, biologists, economists, geologists, hydrologists, planners, and others can engage in cartography to summarize or analyze spatial data. Geologists, for example, produce highly specialized geologic maps to show the three-dimensional arrangement of rock types in an area.

A major change in cartography during the past decade has been the growing use of geographic information system (GIS) software to produce, store, and use maps. GIS software can be used to create custom maps that cover an area or portray features of specific interest to a user. For example, a map showing vegetation types can be placed over a shaded relief map of the earth's surface to illustrate the relationship between biology and topography. GIS software can also be linked to computer simulations of processes such as flooding or earthquake damage to help communities develop emergency response plans. Digital maps can also be widely distributed using internet map servers that allow users to interactively explore a large map by scrolling and zooming.

Showing three-dimensional relationships in two dimensions

When creating a flat map of a portion of the earth's surface, cartographers first locate their specific area of interest using latitude and longitude. They then use map projection techniques to represent the three-dimensional characteristics of that area in two dimensions. Finally, a grid, called a rectangular coordinate system, may be superimposed on the map, making it easier to use.

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