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Abraham Ortelius

1527-1598

Abraham Ortelius (1527– 1598) was a Flemish cartographer and geographer, generally recognised as the creator of the first modern atlas and called the 'father of modern geography'.

He was born in an influential family in Hapsberg ruled Antwerp, now Belgium. In 1547 he entered the Antwerp guild of St Luke as a map-engraver and in 1560, after meeting the geographer Mercator, devoted himself to cartography.

Ortelius's most famous achievement was his production of what could truly be called the first world atlas. The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of 1570 contained 53 maps of regions around the world, including one - the Indiae Orientalis - that mentions a continent 'Australis' below Java.

In 1575 Ortelius was appointed geographer to the King of Spain and in 1578 he laid the basis of a critical treatment of ancient geography in his Synonymia Geographica in which he considered the possibility of continental drift.