Science & Technology in Action

9th Edition

The Wonderful World of Maps

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Maps have played a critical role in the evolution of human society. This lesson from OSI discusses the history of mapping and outlines the various techniques utilised. The mathematics of triangulation is explained and the great Irish survey of the mid 19th century is described.
Download Lesson Kit

Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

What is a map?
A dictionary defines a map as a representation of an area, usually on a flat surface. A map can be as simple as a sketch on the back of an envelope showing where the treasure is buried with no clue other than a shaky outlined island and an ‘x’ marking the spot. It can be detailed enough to precisely identify individual buildings, trees, soil types, or any other feature of interest. In this lesson we look at the evolution of mapping and mapping technologies and also at the great Irish survey of 1824 1842.

Early users of maps
Rudimentary maps have probably always been used. Star maps appear in the Lascaux caves (17,300 years old). Babylonian m aps f rom 2 300 BC depict settlements, crop fields and irrigation sources on clay tablets. Mesopotamian maps of a round 1 600 BC s how cities and tracks between fields and the built-up areas. In China around 240 BC maps were carved on plates. Polynesians wove intricate palm leaf mats showing tides, currents and islands; North Americans carved images of coastlines on bones.

To read the full lesson, download the pdf above.

True or False?

  1. A rope stretcher was a mechanism for stretching ropes. false
  2. A quadrant is a sighting instrument. true
  3. The compass was known to the ancient Greeks. false
  4. A total station incorporates a telescope. true
  5. Triangulation was known to the ancient Greeks. true
  6. In triangulation a new baseline is required each time a new region is to be mapped. false
  7. Mercator Projection produces distortion-free maps. false
  8. The axis used for the projection for UK and Irish Maps is the Greenwich meridian. false
  9. Transverse Mercator projection is used to reduce variations in scale. true
  10. Topographic maps show relief. true
  11. Colby’s compensation bars are made of iron and brass. true
  12. In 1970 the height of Irish mountains dropped by nearly 3 m. true
  13. In digital photography the view straight down from an aeroplane is the ‘vertical’ view. false
  14. A transverse Mercator map gets less accurate moving East or West from the origin. false