"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. " - Walt Disney
Question #17099 posted on 08/01/2005 3:13 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Why did the practice of putting north as up on a map catch on?

⇝ S.K.

A: Dear S.K.

Because the people in the north made all the maps.

The convention came a few centuries ago when Northern hemisphere, European navigators started using the North star and the magnetic compass. Before that, the top of the map was to the East which is where the word orientation comes from.

Orientation of the map is seen as a claim to superiority by many people. McArthur, an Australian, published the first South-up map in 1979. Many people see it as a sigh of Australian nationalism.

I have yet to see a map with East on the top, but I'm interested in seeing one.

So, like many traditions, it just started with a few ideas (right or wrong), then everybody copied it. Now, it is nearly impossible to change.

Sing it Tevye: "Traditioooooooooooon, Tradition!... Tradition."

That is all.

Horatio