The earliest world maps date back to classical antiquity, the 6th to 5th century BC. At that time, people thought the Earth was flat, though the concept of a spherical Earth date from the same period (Pythagoras, 570BC-495BC).

Since then we continued to improve our maps, and in 1569, Gerardus Mercator – a Flemish geographer – created the first version of what later became one of the standard maps of the world.

At the beginning, the Mercator projection, a cylindrical map projection, was used for nautical purposes, but then it could be found everywhere. People who went to school in the early ’90s and before learned geography using this Mercator projection.

Mercator projection of the world between 82°S and 82°N. (Credit: Wikimedia.org)
Mercator projection of the world between 82°S and 82°N. (Credit: Wikimedia.org)

Though this map was very useful at the time, it has a downside: it is distorting the size of the countries depending on their position relative to the equator. For example: though Greenland (2.166 million km²), at first sight, looks almost as big as Africa (30.37 million km²), in reality Africa is about 14 times bigger than Greenland. And the examples can continue…

United States of America
United States of America
Spain
Spain
Russia
Russia
Australia
Australia
Brazil
Brazil
Mexico
Mexico
Canada
Canada
India
India
China
China
Greenland
Greenland
Colombia
Colombia
Germany
Germany
Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo

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