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    Re: Thoughts on why 'north' is at the top of maps (BBC)
    From: David Pike
    Date: 2016 Jun 16, 02:07 -0700

    I don’t think there’s any one reason why north is at the top.  I think it’s a mixture of things which have gelled together.  Firstly, printing in the Northern Hemisphere was well advanced before large portions of the Southern Hemisphere were discovered.  Secondly, the fact that the Earth was a sphere and that it rotates in an easterly direction has been known, off and on, from the time of the ancient Greeks.  Therefore, it was reasonable to divide the Earth into meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude.  Thirdly, in the history of map projections, the Earths axis of rotation was a good choice, so in the basic Mercator Projection, the lines went up and down and across, and in the conical projection they radiated from the top.  This didn’t always continue. Some aeronautical transverse Mercator charts are still orthographic but have the meridians and parallels other than up and down and across.  Polar projections have north (or south) in the middle although the primacy of having 0E/W going up and down kind of makes then appear north orientated.  Fourthly, east is the direction the earth turns.  Is there something in the human brain that makes us like to see east to the right (which means north at the top)?  It’s the direction we in the Western World prefer to write and the direction we like our books to progress.  Therefore, I say there’s no one reason.  It’s all down to the history printing and science, primarily in Europe.  DaveP  

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