Gerard Mercator (1512-1594)
Famous Belgian cartographer, philosopher and mathematician, best known for his new world map on a rectangular projection which allowed a course to be plotted in a straight line and now known as, Mercator's Projection.
Initially studied philosophy at the university of Leuven but as he became convinced of the importance of exact sciences, for the study of the true configuration of the world, he took courses in mathematics. He was soon recognised as an expert on the construction of mathematical instruments, as a land surveyor and after 1537 as a cartographer. He also qualified as an engraver and was the first to introduce the italic in handwriting to the trade.
As he became increasingly better known as a cartographer he embarked on a project for a complete description of the Creation, the Heavens, Earth, the Sea and a world history. Out of this resulted his Atlas, sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura. He drew the maps, engraved the plates and wrote the text for each map an enormous undertaking and unlike other mapmakers of the period, Mercator vigorously researched current knowledge and drew new maps. This process was much more time consuming than the mere copying of existing maps.
His work load caused eye strain and ill health, and soon after the publication of the second part of his map-book (as yet named an atlas) he had a stroke in 1589. This ended his great productivity and he died in 1594 leaving the task of completion of his Pars Altera to his son Rumold.