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Home  > Cartography  > Medieval  > Gemma Frisius
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Gemma Frisius

The well accomplished Dutch map maker, Gemma Frisius was renowned for using mathematical applications for surveys and navigation. Also known as Reiner Gemma, Gemma Frisius was born in Dokkum, Friesland on 9th December, 1508 and lived till 25th May, 1555.

Reiner Gemma was born to humble parents who expired when he was still a child. The orphaned Reiner Gemma spent his childhood in the guidance of his stepmother. He adopted the title of Frisius after becoming a scholar.

Gemma Frisius completed his schooling from Gröningen and chose to study medicine at Leuven. He worked as a faculty member there. He enlarged and published the Apian's Cosmographia several times with alterations in the map of America. In 1530, Gemma Frisius published the Gemma Phrysius de Principiis Astronomiae et Cosmographiae. He also provided his designs of the astronomical rings in these publications. Earlier in his career, Gemma Frisius worked in collaboration with the engraver, Gaspard Van der Heyden to create globes, maps and astronomical instruments.

Gemma Frisius was the first to explain the theory of Libellus de locurum which elaborated the method of triangulation to be used henceforth for surveying. This theory featured in details in his new and enlarged publication of Cosmographia that appeared in 1533. He also described the use of the accurate clock for determining the longitude. His work was appreciated by the Polish ambassador at Brussels who offered him the opportunity to travel to Poland and work in collaboration with Copernicus. However, Gemma Frisius declined the offer and returned to Leuven.

During his lifetime, Gemma Frisius was also praised by Tycho Brahe. Gerardus Mercator, John Dee and Johannes Stadius were some of his accomplished students. The works of Gemma Frisius were also patronized by Emperor Charles V.

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