Aaron Arrowsmith

Aaron Arrowsmith  (1750-1823) was perhaps the most important English mapmaker of his generation. He served as hydrographer to the British Royal Family from at least 1810 until his death. Born in County Durham in northern England, he moved to London around 1770 where he won an apprenticeship under William Faden, the royal cartographer of King George III. Soon after he also began studying engraving under John Cary, who despite being only a few years his senior, had set up a successful business focused on mapmaking.

One of the accomplishments that secured Arrowsmith renown as a cartographer, was his chart of the world based on the Mercator projection, which he published in 1790. Some years later, a second world map based on globular projection was published. In the coming years, Arrowsmith dedicated himself to producing detailed maps of the British Empire and beyond, famously producing his first North American chart in 1796, followed by a range of seminal maps depicting The South Pacific (1798), The West Indies and Spanish Dominions in America (1803), The Indian Subcontinent (1804), Egypt (1807), Scotland (1807), Mexico (1803 & 1810), South Africa (1815) and The North Pole (1818). His 1790 map of America was re-issued several times, the most important of which was in 1802. The detailed study of this particular map was a crucial part of Lewis and Clark’s preparations for the great Corps of Discovery expedition (1803-1806).

In 1804, the same year as this incredible chart is published, Arrowsmith joined forces with Samuel Lewis of Philadelphia to produce the New and Elegant General Atlas Comprising all Discoveries to the Present Time, which for many years set an American standard for compiling popular atlases.

In 1810, Arrowsmith was appointed royal hydrographer to the Prince of Wales, who upon ascending the throne a decade later appoints him as Hydrographer to the King (George IV). His success prompts several family members to follow in his footsteps (most importantly his son Aaron and his nephew John), establishing a line of English cartographers carrying the Arrowsmith name.

Mount Arrowsmith on Vancouver Island is named after him.

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