science of maps

Cartography is making maps. It is part of geography. How people make maps is always changing. In the past, maps were drawn by hand, but today most printed maps are made using computers and people usually see maps on computer screens. Someone who makes maps is called a cartographer.

An early map: the city of Çatalhöyük.[1][2]
World map (2004, CIA World Factbook)

Making a map can be as simple as drawing a direction on a napkin, or as complicated as showing a whole country or world. Anyone can make a map, but cartographers spend their lives learning how to make better maps.

For many centuries maps were usually carefully drawn onto paper or parchment. Now they are made on a computer which makes them look neater with accurate images.[3]

Maps are of two main types:

  • General maps with a variety of features.
  • Thematic maps with particular themes for specific audiences.[4]

General maps are produced in a series. Governments produce them in larger-scale and smaller-scale maps of great detail.

Thematic maps are now very common. They are necessary to show spatial, cultural and social data.


  1. Robert Kunzig (May 1999). "A Tale of two obsessed archeologists, one ancient city, and nagging doubts about whether science can ever hope to reveal the past". Discover Magazine.
  2. Stephanie Meece (2006). "A bird's eye view – of a leopard's spots. The Çatalhöyük 'map' and the development of cartographic representation in prehistory". Anatolian Studies. 56: 1–16. doi:10.1017/S0066154600000727. JSTOR 20065543. S2CID 160549260.
  3. Robinson, Arthur H.; Morrison, Joel L.; Muehrcke, Phillip C.; Kimerling, A. Jon; Guptill, Stephen C. (1995). Elements of Cartography. John Wiley & Sons Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-471-55579-7.
  4. Robinson, Arthur Howard (1982). Early Thematic Mapping in the History of Cartography. ISBN 978-0-226-72285-6.