Ptolemy Contribution to Geography Notes By NETSET CORNER

Ptolemy Contribution to Geography

[2] Ptolemy (90 AD – 168 AD):

Claudius Ptolemy was a native of Egypt. He lived and wrote at Alexandria about the middle of the second century BC. He was a genius who developed sound principles of Mathematical Geography. His writings inspired the geographers and explorers of the Great Age of Discovery (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries to explore the Terra Incognita i.e., unknown land.)

Ptolemy’s main contribution was in the field of Mathematical Geography. He made use of the material of Marinus and Hipparchus in writings and cartographic work. His best known works are the Syntaxis – Popularly known as the Almagest and The Outline of the World. The book, “Almagest, deals with the complicated problems of Astronomy and Mathematical Geography. He in agreement with Aristotle about the belief that the Earth is the spherical in shape and situated in the centre of the universe (geocentric concept).

His second most important work ‘The Geography’ also known as ‘The Guide to Geography’ deals with theory of map projection. It consists of catalogue of places with their latitudes and longitudes and describes briefly each continent, country and tribe.

He asserted that ‘Geography is a science which deals with the art of map-making’.

A major contribution of Ptolemy to cartography has been the use of the graticule of latitude and longitude and the mathematical construction of the projection for his map. He also provided detailed accounts of the known world. He plotted the Gangetic Gulf (Bay of Bengal) for the first time.

His other minor works include “The Optics’ and The Tetrabiblos’ which deal with reflection and refraction respectively. These works are in field of astronomy. He also promulgated the concept of “Terra-Australis Incognita’ which declared that Indian Ocean is a closed sea. This idea was probably borrowed from Hipparchus.

Despite all the omissions and commissions, Ptolemy prepared a good map of the world and his concept of Terra Incognita helped in the discoveries of Australia, South America, and Antarctica.

Key Points on Ptolemy

[1] Developed sound principles of mathematical Geography.

[2] He opined that-“Geography is a science which deals with the art of map-making”

[3] Shape of the Earth= Spherical (Geocentric)

[4] Major work/Book- [a] The Syntaxis- popularly known as ‘The Almagast’- great contribution on classical Astronomy.  [b] Guide to Geography –consisted of 8 volumes. Opens with an excellent theory of map projection.

[5] He promulgated the concept of “Terra-Australis-Incognita”

[6] Minor work – The optics & The Tetrabiblos.


N.B- Notes will be updated time to time

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