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Amazing Maps — And Those Who Love Them

We talk amazing maps and the people who love them —from “here be dragons” to Google Earth.

Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598) map. (Library of Congress)

Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598) map. (Library of Congress)

Ken Jennings was the winningest Jeopardy champ ever, with 74 game victories. He’s the biggest game show money winner in American history. A wiz. But Jennings’ real passion is not “What is sodium bicarbonate?”

It’s maps. Big maps. Old maps. Maps of fairy tale lands and maps of Ouagadougou. He’s not the only one. There’s a whole world of people in love with maps. Maps with sea monsters. Maps online. Now, in the age of GPS and Google Earth, he’s taking us into map mania.

This hour On Point: Ken Jennings and the great romance of the map.

-Tom Ashbrook


Ken Jennings, author of Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks. You can find an excerpt here.

From Tom’s Reading List

Politico “Earlier this year, Griffin was considered to be on the chopping block, a freshman Republican in a state where Democrats control the redistricting levers but are struggling to maintain power in what was once a Southern Democratic stronghold.”

The New York Times “In recent months, plenty of perfectly healthy businesses across the country have expired — sometimes for hours, other times for weeks — though only in the online realm cataloged and curated by Google. The reason is that it is surprisingly easy to report a business as closed in Google Places, the search giant’s version of the local Yellow Pages.”

Wall Street Journal “They list the geographic coordinates of the troves on a website devoted to geocaching. Hunters use global-positioning-system devices, such as a handheld GPS navigator or a smartphone, to find them.”

Some Great Maps

Here’s a blog we found with some great, quirky maps.

17th-century world map by Johan Blaue

The Road to Success

L'Europe Animale

Jeweled globe from the Iranian crown jewels

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Gregg

    I love maps! I have researched the property which I now own and learned the first Wittenberg (the name of my community) Post office was somewhere on my land. Daniel Wittenberg had two mills, a flour mill on the river and a flax mill on the creek. In 1834 he was named postmaster. I found a Postal map commissioned by the US Government from 1840. It showed the mail routes and confirmed my research. It told me the route was a sulky route and we ride on those very same trails now. The map was a treasure trove of information.

  • Anonymous

    Maps are inherently subversive.

    All you have to do is look at a globe and it is obvious that the continents drifted apart.

    My guess is that took more than 6000 years.

    • Winston Smith

      Actually, they moved very quickly apart as a consequence of the worldwide flood described in the Bible in Genesis.  And if one honestly looks at the physical evidence, a worldwide flood over a short period of time (a year) can better explain the physical consequences that we see much more accurately and completely than an extremely slow evolutionary process that took billions of years.  See the link below as well as other links on the Institute of Creation Research’s website.  Most people will of course dismiss ICR’s points as fairy tales, etc.  But Jesus, Paul, Peter, and others who wrote the New Testament cited Adam and Eve, Noah, and others as historical figures.  So the Bible really stands as a unified whole or it falls apart.  Romans 1 points out that anyone who objectively and sincerely looks at the evidence will conclude that God is the creator.  He gives each of us a choice.  We will live with the choice that we make for eternity.


      • Anonymous

        Is this nonsense going to be posted on every topic? 

        • Winston Smith

          You are free to do with it what you want.  But one day, if not in this life, then at the Great White Throne Judgement and for eternity, you will realize that it is true.  My prayer is that you realize it in this life rather than spending eternity regretting having rejected it.

          • Anonymous

            No it is a myth. 

          • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

            10 On Point points to whomever can bring this back to maps.

          • Anonymous

            You would probably need a map to navigate that.

          • nj
          • TFRX

            Hey, didn’t the Bible say something about praying in silence and alone rather than beating your breast about how holy you are?

            Try it sometime.

        • Stillin

          It appeared to me on my walk last night, I had one of my dogs out and this lady asked me if I wanted to meet her very, very good friend. Jesus. I don’t ask for this stuff, I just wanted to be left alone to walk my dog in the woods. There is was though, I had to back step and just kind of, think, where did YOU come from in the middle of my nice walk.

          • Anonymous

            Get a bigger dog.

          • Stillin

            It was the collie pup, they never bother me when I take the big stray hound/ something mix…he’s a baby but he is very big and mouthy. I just love him.

  • JustSayin

    It all looks different from down under or is it up over?


    …The map appears
    to have been printed upside down. It hasn’t: this is an Australian
    map of the world designed by Donald Blygh , who said, “I am
    sick and tired of seeing my beautiful country stuck in the bottom
    right-hand corner of world maps. I want a map with Australia at
    the top and in the middle.”

  • itsjustme

    ok, so the “contact us” page says the best way to contact On Point is to leave a comment.

    So here goes: maps may be fascinating topics, and people can’t seem to get enough of Ken Jennings, but . . . .  COULD SOMEONE IN THE AMERICAN MEDIA PLEASE COVER THE WALL STREET PROTESTS!!!

    What the heck is wrong, is there some sort of silent media blackout on this?  Google news returns practically nothing, but links from over seas media outlets. NYPD cops are beating the heck out of people and the media is complicit in this. They can cover the Wisconsin protests but not a Wall St protest. Again I say, literally and figuratively: what the heck is going on?

    thank you and I now return you to your regular programming :  )

    • Stillin

      Really, great idea, and  I hope they do it.

      • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

        You can check out the segment we did on it at the end of our “lost decade” show if you’re interested.

    • H Curran

      Excellent point!  This is a very large protest and is getting virtually NO coverage!!

      • guest

        go to WNYC for that information…but not here.

    • Tina

      On Point DID cover the Wall Street protests…yesterday, perhaps, or sometime this week? at the end of the show…as if, perhaps, they KNEW that it was an important enough topic that it be ADDED to their regularly scheduled topic.  

  • Yar

    I would like to see into the mapmaker’s mind because I believe I am a visual thinker.  I feel I have a degree of Autism, although I have not been diagnosed.  
    Tim Page read an excerpt of his book Parallel Play on Fresh Air  where he described a report he wrote as a child about a field trip he took with his school. I could identify with what he wrote.  I wonder if Ken Jennings has read Parallel Play and how the world is mapped out in his mind.  Do abstract concepts have spatial relationships in your mind?
    Here is the NPR link to that show.

    • Tina

      Thanks, Yar, for the link.  I am a visual thinker, and maps were/are both visual AND had/have names of places that provoked/provoke visual thinking (horseheads, NY or PA; etc.) for me.  I still think that one reason that American kids are falling behind in education compared to other countries is that USA kids are being deprived of the visual learning that is so natural for them.  Instead, they are being given straight-up abstract concepts — maybe that works for a few kids, but, developmentally, most kids live in a sensate world which leads INTO an abstract world of thought.  Making kids start with abstractions might be killing the intellectual leaps that many, many kids would be making were they in sensate-learning (visual arts, music, theater, non-competitive sports, construction projects) environments!  Maps are on the CUSP between the physical and the abstract; they usually use visuals AND words; many of the words on maps are “visual” or “sensate” in their own right (“there be DRAGONS”!).  

      Maps show, as well, how many ways information and experiences can be organized.  I think, for kids, maps often suggest the “experiences” part of those options — and kids love to have experiences, usually called “adventures”, and maps lead to imaginative adventures in the heads of so many kids.  Map-mania could help education in major, major ways!  Thanks for this show (I missed the last half; will listen thru podcast.)

  • John – Williamstown, VT

    I recently heard that Columbus confirmed that the world was round  map makers had been drawing round world maps before him. Does Ken know what those maps looked like?

  • Stillin

    HA! I have that road to success map, at the top of this page, in this art room! I love it, ( especially hotel know it all, that’s a riot, part of that illustration.) Anyway, isn’t the feel, the tactile touch of paper, such an appealing aspect to a map. I don’t care about online maps, I just love paper. Students love doing treasure maps and I am a map lover. I don’t use computer navigation in my vehicle, because sometimes it’s good to get lost and you can have someone help you draw a map. It’s a bonding experience! Just old school and love it.

  • Stillin

    Does anybody remember playing outside, and making maps of where the other group of kids were, or how to get to the “made” camp…usually tree limbs and brush…it’s a great fun thing to have done growing up, paper, marker, map and play.

  • Michiganjf


        GPS and ONSTAR are maps… very modern ones.

    Someday even they will look dated… Holographic topographical maps perhaps?

  • Susanna Jewell

    I have always loved navigating new places with maps.  I have just gotten an Iphone and am grappling with the ease of navigating mindlessly with my phone now….I feel less connected to my sense of place/ less aware of a place in context.  

  • John – Williamstown, VT

    Even with the Web & GPS the #1 requested item from tourism bureaus is a road map.  People want the feel of paper map.

  • Jessmesser

    my son is map crazy, much like his father. but since the age of 6, he has loved to draw and read maps. his geography is amazing but it is so much more than that. when asked what kind of camp he wanted to go to, he said “OOOH cartography camp!” is there such a thing?!

  • SgtSnider

    I went to gradudate school at BC and studied geology.  On the walls of the Geology Department there were these very nice geologic maps.  I would often see art classes down in the Geology Department looking at these maps as abstract art.

  • David Crossman

    As a child, I had vivid dreams for months after visiting the Mapparium 30-foot walk-through globe at the Christian Science Publishing building in Boston. A must-see.

  • Carol Streiff

    30 years ago I put up a wallpaper of a world map in our bathroom.  It was a terrific way to get our children exposed to both the concept of map-making and the images of countries and places.

    I recently tried to find a similar wallpaper map but neve succeeded.  The few papers available are mostly sailing chart maps or antique-looking maps which are somewhat difficult to make out.

    Please tell the paper-makers to put more maps on their papers!  It is a fantastic way to both please aesthetically and educate.

    Carol Streiff
    Boston MA

    • Tina

      Carol, I once visited a house in Stonington, ME, where every wall of the kitchen was wallpapered in chart maps of the area.  The overall color effect was beautiful, and the romance of the maps, indicating all those layers of knowledge about the various areas depicted, was  charming.  I’m not sure how the maps were adhered to the walls, but I would never want to remove those maps, anyway.  I loved the place, and it has stayed in my imagination for decades!

  • Tina

    I still have my first map that I sent away for with a cereal-box coupon and 25 cents (I had to get help from my parents with the money).  It was the Wild Bill Hickock Treasure Map, and it showed treasure right NEAR where my grandparents lived in Florida!!!

    I still have the map of the moon that was on a Scientific American magazine that my Dad brought home!  It was a map of the craters which had such strange names:  the name I Fell In Love With was called Copper-Nick-us.  What a STRANGE NAME, I thought, pronouncing it incorrectly for at least another decade.  I asked my teacher if I could do a report on this strange name on the Map of the Moon, but she said we were going to be studying New Foundland next.  Well, THAT name got to me, too, and I just HAD to find a map.  If this were “New” Foundland, WHERE was the old “Foundland” — was there a MAP of the Old Foundland?!?!

    Thank you for this wonderful show!!!

    • Tina

      Obviously, the map of the moon spelled it “Copernicus”.

  • David

    Hello, I work for the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine, and we currently digitizing our rare atlas and flat map collection. I happen to stumble across this program. Has your guest ever had a chance to visit our facilities?

    • Tina

      Please tell us more!

  • Anonymous

    Does Watson have a Kindle download about Google Earth?

  • Beth Ryan

    Globes are my thing, but one of my most favorite possessions is a 1938 edition of the Ideal Map of Europe that used to live in a one room school house in Whitehall, MT.  It is a respresentation of a world on the cusp dramatic and horrific change. Austria is already gone, and Germany wraps around Czechoslovakia like a closing fist– or a hungry Pac Man.

  • Rex

    Buster, from Arrested Development, who studied cartography:
    “Obviously this blue part here is the land”

  • Heidi Broner

    In the early nineties I was in NYC doing theater set pieces, and I was hired by an early music group to create 4 renaissance maps, 7′x5′ each, on canvas, to accompany their program about Columbus. It was such a great opportunity to really look closely at maps from that time, so beautiful and imaginative. There were often the 4 winds in the corners, whales and sea monsters, coastlines that were stylized into decorative patterned. The Sargasso Sea featured in one of them.

  • Dan

    I have the good fortune to spend part of my time making maps.  They aren’t the works of art as shown above and the areas I work with are usually quite a bit smaller…  50 to 1500 acres not continent wide maps.

  • Stillin

    Is there any meaning to being on the 45th paralell? I live on it, does it have any meaning in terms of the magnetic field of the earth?

    • BHA in Vermont

      Nothing more significant than it is half way between the equator and the pole.

      There is no connection between the magnetic field and any latitude line other than the equator.  

      • Stillin

        Thanks for the answer. I was just wondering.

  • Tina

    GPS doesn’t really show or highlight well enough the unnamed roads that lead directly to the fabulous views!!!  Recently, the driver in our group was driving right past roads I suspected led to panoramic views of the Atlantic, based on MY reading of the DeLorme map book maps of the area.  Boy was I right!  GPS can help, but it cannot replace what we can learn from maps, and, of course, there is that business where men, who are famous for not asking for directions, will LISTEN to the kittenish voices coming from the GPS map rather than to the Real Live Woman sitting next to him!

  • Michaelmross

    Unfortunately, Google insists on using the archaic, cold-war Mercator projection in Google Maps. If you don’t believe this, just zoom out from any map to the world view. (But, when you switch to Earth view, it switches to a globe.)

  • Jane

    When our family of five (including three children) repatriated to the US from Singapore we hung huge maps of SouthEast Asia, and the World, on our kitchen wall for us all to consult when we want to learn, are feeling homesick, or just need information on the world at our finger tips. Now that we are “global citizens” I cannot imagine not having my maps to consult.

  • T im Brown

    The Readers Digest Great World Atlas was responsible for one of the greatest disappointments of my life! For years as a kid I pored over maps and imagined the most exotic places in the world as Addis Ababa and Papua New Guinea…
    New Guinea was fabulous but when I finally got to Addis (after riding a camel for days to come from Asmara in the north)  it was a horrible, dismal, dirty disgusting placel!!! Bitter, bitter disappointment and death of a kid’s dream that had lived for a long time… I know I should have known better, but I had been seduced by those maps at a really impressionable age.

  • BHA in Vermont

    There is DEFINITELY still a need for full size paper maps even in the age of GPS navigation systems.

    With big paper maps you can find the ‘non major roads’ route. Roads you can’t see on a GPS navigation system until you are zoomed in so close you can’t see where they go and what roads they connect with.

  • Gemli

    We should all realize that the world we see and walk through every day is really a neuronal map that we build in our brain.  

  • James

    I disagree with the point about iPhones, Google Maps, and GPS marking the demise of the conventional map. Used properly (as any map-lover surely would), these devices give us an endless, portable, and practical map of any area around. 

  • Sarahthepark

    What about fictional maps? I love the creativity and imagination of maps in fantasy novels or video games.

  • Persia36

    I grew up in Kenya and my siblings and I would sit around an atlas and one of us will pick up a spot and the rest of us would have to find it. Its interesting that people here in the States would look at Africa and imagine all the jungles and adventures, for us in Kenya,we would look at the Western world “jungles”and go for adventures in there. When I finally moved here, it was so cool to actually go to those places. Maps rocks.

  • Bill in Worcester

    Orienteering used to be well-represented in New England, and may still be going strong. One of the finer ways to use a map, running through the woods.

  • Susanekg

    I wonder if Ken Jennings knows the work of John Hessler, senior cartographer at the Library of Congress who recently discovered maps made by Henry David Thoreau and linked the maps to Thoreau’s reflections on cartography in Cape Cod. The Thoreau Society is working with Hessler and many other scholars to document Thoreau’s contributions to cartography in Mapping Thoreau Country http://www.mappingthoreaucountry.org/maps/.  

  • litekeep

    I’ve been listening.  Huge Map fan.  I ALWAYS look out the window to see where we are based upon my map knowledge.  And when we were flying to FL last April, we flew over Chincoteague Island.  I knew it when it first appeared out the small window because I’ve been to Chincoteague many times and I recognized the shape of the island as it came into view.  Flew right over the island, a place which brings so many memories for me.  LOVE MAPS!!!

  • jaybird138

    Fascinating subject, man and host.  I have always treasured maps, and their ability to put you in the place you want to see, anywhere in the world.  I do a lot of map framing, new old and otherwise, and they are all special.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749253411 Valerie Epstein-Johnson

    Maps can tap into our unique and intimate connections to the landscapes of our lives.  I love the convenience of GPS, but it cannot replace the texture and meaning of tangible maps.  There is a beautiful book called
    Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas by Denis Wood, which explores the idea that maps can be poetry, art, and documents of the idiosyncratic ways we relate to the environments that give our lives meaning.

  • Ed G

    My first experience with GPS was frustrating. I went from an area that I was unfamiliar with to another area that I did not know very well. The GPS took me to the address and when I left I had it take me home. After I got home I realized that I did not know where I had been. Had to get on Google and the road atlas as soon as I got home to see where I had been.

  • Weblizard

    I’ve always loved maps- when I was a child, my parents participated in car rallies- and the detailed. spiral-bound Hagstrom maps were bibles when navigating through the New England countryside!
    Many years later, I was a driver for Skyhook Wireless, who developed a mapping system based on wireless networks- a terrestrial alternative to GPS-based maps. I drove myself and the GPS-enabled PDA they loaned me. throughout CT. This data became the basis for Apple’s first map-on-iPhone app, before they became GPS-enabled.
    And yes, I used trusty, dead-tree Hagstrom maps to find my way around…

  • Kathleen Francis

    I’ve always loved maps- when I was a child, my parents participated in car rallies- and the detailed. spiral-bound Hagstrom maps were bibles when navigating through the New England countryside!
    Many years later, I was a driver for Skyhook Wireless, who developed a mapping system based on wireless networks- a terrestrial alternative to GPS-based maps. I drove myself and the GPS-enabled PDA they loaned me. throughout CT. This data became the basis for Apple’s first map-on-iPhone app, before they became GPS-enabled.
    And yes, I used trusty, dead-tree Hagstrom maps to find my way around…

  • Kathleen Francis

    y loaned me. throughout CT. This data became the basis for Apple’s first map-on-iPhone app, before they became GPS-enabled.
    And yes, I used trusty, dead-tree Hagstrom maps to find my way around…

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondgp Jason Guberman-Pfeffer

    I would be interested in what
    Mr. Jennings thinks about using Google Earth as a gateway, not a
    destination, for historic preservation and inquiry? Our non-profit
    initiative http://www.Diarna.org/
    explores the unfolding of Jewish history through the prism of
    individual sites (schools, cemeteries, synagogues, shrines) and
    memories. We map sites in Google Earth and then synthesize the satellite
    imagery with a content layer of 360 panoramas, 3-D architectural
    models, archival and contemporary photography, scholarship, as well as
    place-based oral history recordings to ensure untrammeled virtual access. Diarna’s inaugural exhibit is dedicated to rare sites, including Holocaust-era Vichy camps, we have documented in Morocco (http://www.JewishMorocco.org)

  • Kathleen Francis

    Oops- sorry for the double-post- I thought I wasn’t logged in!

  • Bruce Barrett

    Did anyone catch the names of the Cornellians who wrote an article about mapping and political agends? Mentioned by a caller?

  • bronzobuff

    This is extraordinary, from the perspective of someone who can draw maps from memory but do not remember looking at maps and globes until I was 7 or 8 years old.  She may not read place names yet, but her auditory memory (of spoken place names) and her visual memory of shapes and location is outstanding.  I wonder if she performs as well with a globe.  Soon she will be able to pinpoint places/countries in a nonpolitical map (physical map) and finding cities, rivers, lakes, islands, mountains, and mountain ranges won’t be so far-fetched!

  • coach

    I have not seen the sport mentioned here which is totally based on finding your way, as fast as possible, across a map. Orienteering is the largest (1000′s of participants per day)spectator sport in the world, and hugely popular in northern Europe. If you want to see great and colorful maps, go orienteering.

    • Tina

      I’ll never forget seeing Swedish families, up at the crack of down, running on hills in Dalarna that were practically 80 degrees to the ground plane.  What’s up, I signed (as my relatives were practically the only Swedes who didn’t speak much English).  Orienteering was the answer!  That was in 1974; it took years before I heard that term here in the USA.  Do you know when it first came here (I might just have missed the American expression of it!).  Thanks!

  • Jess

    My favorite map I saw in Florence, Italy. Florence was once a map-producing center during the Renaissance, and some of the original maps can still be seen on display in a room of the Signoria. This particular map I saw was of Northern Africa, and had various notations on it. On one part in the east, there was a black drawing of a small Elephant smack in the middle of the land, with some words that translated roughly to “Here there are a lot of elephants.” For whatever reason, those words along with the drawing really tickled my fancy, and it remains my favorite map today.

  • Tina

    There are so many wonderful and informative and playful comments today!  Thanks, everybody; and thanks, too, for the links that some people have provided!  

  • Modavations

    The Nunavut Island area has yielded the gemmiest diamonds in the world

  • Modavations

    My spies are everywhere,so no cheating!!!Where is the Hague

  • http://www.facebook.com/jhayesboh James Hayes-Bohanan

    I look forward to catching this — I was busy with geography students when it aired. Geography lovers in the state can help get more geography into K-12 schools by supporting SB 182, currently in committee. Read all about it at http://massgeo.blogspot.com/.

  • nj

    Great show and comments! My $.02…

    Raven makes some handsome, modern maps:


    I always like the “upside down” maps. Anything to jar us out of complacent paradigms:


    Finally, not maps, exactly, but visual presentations of data, information, and stuff; map-like, in many ways:


  • Abbie Gale

    I am a Geography major, and my GIS professor made a comment about how now we use GPS satellites to navigate around, like we’ve created our own stars, what we used to use to navigate. I thought that was a really interesting perspective!

  • Laurie

    Please comment on Raven Maps and Images out of Medford Oregon made by Stuart Allen.  In our many years as picture framers we ‘ve had the pleasure of selling and framing these for map enthusiasts and hearing their stories about places they’ve been and how landforms were made.  

  • Thomas Hughes

    Although 21 yrs. old, I have always loved maps and atlas’s. As a child, the world isn’t so big: You have your school, home, church, etc, but you never think of how big and exotic the world is. But, as a child, it was mesmerizing to me to see how much of the world there was and I often would look at an atlas for hours or maps of countries in my Encyclopedia’s. 

  • Howard

    In 1982, I moved to Mexico City, which at that time had a population of about 18 million.  As a university student, I bought a thick book called the “Guia Roji,” which contained all the thousands of streets in the city.  Every night I studied the book, and the next day I would set out for an adventure, with my Guia Roji in my hand.

  • http://www.routeloops.com Erin

    http://www.ROUTELOOPS.COM – the web site that I mentioned at the end of the show today.  

    Create a custom bicycle or running route: 
    put in your starting address, 
    a distance that you want to go, 
    get a cue sheet that you can load onto a GPS.  A great tool! 
    There is also an iPhone app available, still being tested.  
    Use it to vary your routine from home, or to find a route when you’re away from home.  You can adjust the route to your liking by dragging the route on the map on the website. 
     I also wanted to mention on the show, but ran out of time, that the first gift my husband ever gave me was a map of Ireland before it was divided by the British.    Also, both my husband and I were told, in separate elementary schools, after taking some standardized tests, that we should consider a career as a cartographer! I ended up as an architect (a floor plan is really just a map of a house), and my husband took a circuitous route through a physics PhD and an MBA, only to find the “map bug” through his cycling passion, and his desire to escape the boredom of doing the same ride over and over.  Now he spends all his spare time working on RouteLoops!  www.routeloops.com    

  • quadraticus

    With all due respect and deference to Mr. Jennings, who knows a lot more random stuff than I do, his statement about leaving the town in WV requiring leaving the state (and entering either OH or PA) is incorrect. According to Google Maps, there are no towns on that panhandle that aren’t connected to the rest of WV via at least one road that does not leave the state.

  • Jeremy

    Another unique kind of map is the two-sided maps that are inserted into National Geographic Magazine a few times per year.  There is a two-sided map frame to display them- check out http://www.hindsightframes.com
    Thanks for the great show

  • GISstudent

    Tom mispoke when he asked the guest about the advent of “large-scale” maps showing the world. In the world of maps, large-scale refers to increased detail, so a map of the world (showing less detail) is a small-scale map. As was noted in the program, Lewis Carroll’s fictional map with a scale of 1:1 is the ultimate large-scale map.

  • Jsix30

    I have always loved geography. My mother tells people stories about when I was 18 mo. old I could put together a map puzzle of the United States and it was my favorite toy. I still remember the sorrow years later when my brother tore it up with the lawn mower. 

  • Michael

    I too found my love of geography early. When my mom would make me turn off my bedroom light and go to sleep, I would take my world atlas, lay on the floor, and “read” it by the hallway light. As a freshman college student (math major) I was thrilled to find in the course catalog an “Intro to Physical Geography.” Months later I changed my major, and today, 18 years later, still love teaching high school geography!
    Thanks for the conversation Tom.

  • Caroleires

    I also liked reading the huge Nat Geo atlas we had in our house growing up. I liked finding weird place names. If my dad was not with us on vacation, I was the navigator, from about 6th grade on, directing my mom, who had no sense of direction (I’m female). I got my kids placemats when they were young, that had a world political map on one side and US political map on the other which they used with all their informal meals. I’d quiz them as they ate. They’d check out the maps to be able to beat their sibling. They both have a good sense of state names, capitals, country names and locations now as adults.

  • 154443
  • http://www.facebook.com/jhayesboh James Hayes-Bohanan

    This is a wonderful discussion, very much welcomed by this academic geographer. It is correct that most top-ranked U.S. universities have jettisoned geography, and it is true that academic geographers look critically (though also lovingly) at maps. But geographers did not “walk away” from maps. Moreover, the cutting of geography has been a tragic mistake, which some of the Ivies are starting to realize.

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    Does anyone know if there is a map that locates “ speed traps” or high accident areas and corridors ?

  • Thinkin5

    I love looking at the earliest maps of of the world. When people who never flew in a plane above the earth imagined what the shape of land and oceans were like. They were pretty good at it considering their disadvantage. They were so beautiful too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.moynihan.3 Susan Moynihan

    Do you know the children’s book “How I
     Learned to Love Geography” by Uri Shulevitz?  It is BEAUTIFUL and a beautiful story.

  • Thinkin5

    Yes! The Map Room at the Vatican and the Uffizi too. Gorgeous and fascinating. Just reading all the beautiful, interesting names of places around the world makes me want to go see the place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

    Did I hear this “maphead” say that merely memorizing Webster’s Dictionary is all it takes to be a successful spelling-bee contender? Not true. That’s like saying all a maphead needs to do is memorize printed configurations on a piece of paper.

    One has to understand context, cultural origins & sometimes conflicting definitions of words to be a great speller. I’ll bet mapheads have equally well-rounded brains, no better & no worse than we word-nerds.

  • Michele Benson Huck

    I am reading the novel “Cloud Atlas” but was having trouble getting absorbed by it. I realized that I needed to place the setting of the first section of the book geographically. I pulled out my old world atlas and found the setting, the Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand. Now I can picture where novel is set. I love novels that have a map of where the story’s action is takings place on the inside cover of the book, I can follow where the characters are and where the action is unfolding.

  • Michele Benson Huck

    I am reading the novel “Cloud Atlas” but was having trouble getting absorbed by it. I realized that I needed to place the setting of the first section of the book geographically. I pulled out my old world atlas and found the setting, the Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand. Now I can picture where novel is set. I love novels that have a map of where the story’s action is takings place on the inside cover of the book, I can follow where the characters are and where the action is unfolding.

  • John Drinane

    When the Zombi Apocalypse hits and all our electronics are rendered useless… Those paper maps will become a very valuable commodity!! 

  • 1234LC

    I teach architectural drawing for interior decorators at a local college. I have found the being able to read a map is one of the best indicators of success in my class. Those students who have difficulty reading a map struggle to learn how to draw floor plans and elevations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1050785869 Debra Drummond

    About serving as the navigator for the driver on a car trip: I rotate the map so the top of the map is pointed in the direction we are going.  I think I learned this from my mother who did the same thing.  My father is quite tickled by this.  A bit of a kerfuffle if the map isn’t pointed in the correct direction. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003647576645 Ridgely Duvall

    I have a lifelong fascination with maps, now exacerbated by scuba diving and the need to know where I am underwater, as well as my travelling to dive in destinations around the world.

    But one of my favorites remains a 1914 tourist map of London, inherited from my grandfather.  The border of this fanciful map reads,

    “The heart of Britain’s empire here is laid out for your view.
    It shows all the tramways and bus stops, not a few.
    You have not the time to admire it all?
    Why not take a map home to pin on your wall!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/robinson.sudan Robinson Sudan

    As a Conservation Biology PhD student who uses maps in my own work, I can only speak of the immense power of GIS.  To worry about the digital age bringing about the end of maps is to ignore the insight that computer based spatial analysis can provide, and then symbolize phenomena in minutes that would have taken a cartographer months to devise and execute even a few decades ago.  That all being said, I have a sentimental obsession with maps owing to the National Geographic Robinson Projection wallpaper of the world on my wall growing up.  Nothing on this planet makes as much sense as it does when we understand WHERE it happens.  

  • Tim Hou

    I have always enjoyed maps and navigation. Before traveling to new places I look at it on google maps first to pick out key landmarks and major roads. Being a former Boy Scout I still carry a compass in my bag whenever I am in a new city. 

  • Stephbenprice

    Triptiks!!  My brother and I used to wrestle over who got to hold the triptik in the car…I loved to follow along and flip the page!  I use maps on my iphone but it can’t replace a real map-I like to look at the entire map-it’s why better!

  • paulherald

    Very interesting show! Listened on livestream from my sailboat in Roatan, Honduras, an island with a storied history including, yes, treasure and maps! As a mariner I am intimate with a different kind of map, the CHART! On charts many references to land features besides the water-covered ones which can bump the bottom of your boat are peaks, steeples, etc which will help you get a bearing and find your way into a harbor. I’ve heard it said that “maps tell ya where to go, charts tell ya where NOT to go”. We on the water have the same dilemma as to whether to go to the trouble of having and handling a paper chart or just rely upon the electronic one interfaced to our GPS. Only on the ocean the cost for not having a real situational awareness can be much higher than taking a wrong turn in a car.

  • RajRam

    I’ve always been fascinated by maps and am one of an uncountable number of artists that uses them in my work. In fact, right now I’m part of a show here in Boston called Terrain at the Medicine Wheel Gallery in Southie. I’m sure local map addicts (and art lovers in general) will enjoy it: http://mwponline.org/wordpress/?page_id=682

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PTFQJBAZA3AEAKV4YVGKVMJSXE GP

    Feature Dec 28, 2012 at “This American Life” all about maps of the 5 senses: maps for eyes, for ears and so on: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/110/mapping

Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
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