Cartogram - History of Cartography - Cartographers

An overview on the history of cartography and useful cartographic skills. Also learn about the cartogram and the main cartograms that show different attributes of geographic objects.


Cartogram is a diagram that makes use of a form of map to present numeric information while maintaining a degree of geographical accuracy. Note that cartograms are representations of geographical space. Mapping requirements comprise of orientation contiguity, data that have suitable variation and preservation of shape. Accuracy of area estimation and effective legend design could lead to successful communication. Cartogram could be constructed manually or with the help of computers. Employ logic before making use of cartograms. Note that cartogram is not a true map as it does not show geographic space but changes the size of objects based on a certain attribute. The three main cartograms that show different attributes of geographic objects are:

Contiguous Cartograms - The objects in this remain connected with each other but leads to distortion in shape. Cartographers should learn to maintain the shape of the objects so that cartograms can be easily interpreted.

Non-contiguous cartograms - The geographical objects in this do not have to maintain connectivity with their adjacent objects. The connectivity is referred to as topography. Since the objects are free from their adjacent objects, they can maintain their shape.

Dorling cartograms - These are effective even if they do not maintain the topology, shape or object centroids. The cartographer does not enlarge or shrink objects in dorling cartograms but replaces the object with a uniform shape of the appropriate size.


Cartography reduces the world to lines, figures, points and areas. Cartographic skills come handy not only in locating places but also to be used in the event of war. Maps are nothing but an abstract of reality. Cartography is no longer confined to showing political boundaries or shipping routes. The cutting edge technology in cartography makes use of computer software tools, called the geographic information system (GIS). If you are interested in the pattern of ocean trenches, mountain ranges or rainfall, you could make use of GIS. Remember that the internal structure of GIS is dependent on cartography. Cartography helps us to get an idea about a city, its' land features and whether it is possible to do business there.

History of Cartography

Cartography is the science and art of making maps. Old maps laid emphasis on topological relationships such as adjacency, connectedness and containment. A major development in cartography came with the engraved map of the holy city of Nippur, from the Kassite period of the Babylonian history. Ancient Greeks made a rich contribution to the art of Cartography. They developed map projections that represented the curved surface of the earth on a plane. Later, the Europeans, who had an urge to control the West, invented scientific mapping methods. Ecological thinking and the concept of distribution paved way for the revolution of cartography in the later years.

Note that cartographers are people who make maps. Cartographers comprise of historians, statisticians, teachers, educators, librarians and map curators. They work in institutions, businesses and governments. Cartographers are mainly involved in the visual representation of the world and the earth's surface.

Cartographic Skills

Cartographic skills include artistic as well as visual skills. Cartographers possess the ability to present maps in an appealing and understandable way. Cartographers should have a thorough knowledge in map-making so that they can guarantee precision and accuracy. Cartographic skills also include proficiency in English and other science subjects like biology, geography, chemistry and physics. Knowledge in subjects like anthropology, archeology, history and politics could also improve cartographic skills. Note that some universities and community colleges design programs for cartographic studies. Students enroll in these schools to develop their cartography skills and learn mapping technology.

What is the Future of Cartography?

The future of cartography lies in its' persisting ability to change and adapt itself to the requirements of the map-user. The cartographers' ability to map land features of other planets, to the ocean bottom determines the future of cartography. Cartographers should also be capable of mapping anything from the Internet. The future of cartography is in the hands of students, who keep themselves informed about new technologies, including remote sensing methods, mapping software and image retrieval by satellites. People also make use of cartography in its' analytical and presentation sense as they are employing software that embody cartographic practice and principles.

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