This past week the media reported the death of Arthur Robinson, whose eponymous projection was adopted by the National Geographic Society for its world maps. He died Oct. 10 at the age of 89. Obituaries from the Arizona Republic (reprinting the NYT) and the Daily Telegraph; NPR has an interview with one of Robinson’s former students (RealAudio format).
More on the Robinson projection from the University of Wisconsin’s map library, which is named after him, and from Wikipedia. The Robinson projection was, like the less-successful (and, to my mind, inferior) Peters projection, intended to reduce the distortions inherent in the Mercator projection. The Mercator, as I mentioned earlier, was a navigational tool meant to preserve compass directions; the fact that it made Greenland look larger than South America was aesthetically and representationally incorrect, certainly, and made it unsuitable for general world maps. While the Robinson projection is essentially an aesthetic response to the Mercator, that’s entirely the point of world maps, which aren’t going to be used for navigation in any event.
Via MetaFilter, among other sources.