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Edward Wright (mathematician)

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Edward Wright was an English mathematician and cartographer noted for his book Certaine Errors in Navigation, which for the first time explained the mathematical basis of the Mercator projection by building on the works of Pedro Nunes, and set out a reference table giving the linear scale multiplication factor as a function of latitude, calculated for each minute of arc up to a latitude of 75°. This was in fact a table of values of the integral of the secant function, and was the essential step needed to make practical both the making and the navigational use of Mercator charts.

Hilliard's portrait of George, Earl of Cumberland (c. 1590, detail). Wright dedicated his work Certaine Errors in Navigation (1599) to him.

The New River at Enfield Town Park in London – photographed on 3 February 2008

The Scotsman John Napier (1550–1617), the inventor of logarithms, depicted in an engraving by Samuel Freeman (1773–1857) based on a 1616 painting at the University of Edinburgh

Title page of Wright's Certaine Errors in Navigation (Second edition, 1610)

Mercator projection

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The Mercator projection is a conformal cylindrical map projection presented by Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It became the standard map projection for navigation due to its ability to represent north as 'up' and south as 'down' everywhere while preserving local directions and shapes. However, as a result, the Mercator projection inflates the size of objects the further they are from the equator. In a Mercator projection, landmasses such as Greenland and Antarctica appear far larger than they actually are relative to landmasses near the equator. Despite these drawbacks, the Mercator projection is well-suited to marine navigation and internet web maps and continues to be widely used today.

Mercator projection of the world between 85°S and 85°N. Note the size comparison of Greenland and Africa.