He was born to a humble family in Flanders in 1512 and named Gerard Kremer, although he was better known by his Latinized name, Gerardus Mercator. After receiving a master’s degree at the University of Leuven in 1532, he studied mathematics, geography, and astronomy under the tutelage of the mathematician Gemma Frisius, who was famous for both the theories he developed and the measuring instruments he built. After finishing his university studies, Mercator began to question the Bible’s version of the origin of the universe because it did not conform with the theories propounded by Aristotle and other philosophers. He began to take an interest in geography at about the same time he became disinterested in philosophy. In 1534, he returned to Leuven, where he established himself as an engraver and scientific instrument maker.
In 1544, he was accused of heresy because of his suspected tolerance for Lutheranism and spent seven months in prison. With the help of the University of Leuven and well-placed friends, he was freed, but left completely destitute. In 1552 he moved to Duisburg (Germany), where he opened a workshop and dedicated himself to teaching mathematics at a university preparatory school.
He had 6 children, one of whom helped him finish and publish his final works after he had suffered several strokes that decimated his health, eventually causing his death in 1594.
But, we can’t say anything more without revealing the answers to this test! What was Mercator’s legacy? What did he dedicate his life to, and how did this great historical figure’s work impact the present?
His name is alive in the heavens: it was used to christen both a lunar crater located at the far end of the Mare Nubium and an asteroid, which rotates at a mean distance from the Sun of 2.197 AU taking 1,189 days to fully orbit it.
To learn more about his legacy, you can find all the information about his work and legacy here, and of particular interest, with this interactive timeline you can see a visual demonstration of how Mercator’s work defined a “before and after.”