What Is a Robinson Projection Map?


Map manufacturers refer to maps as projections, which represent a three-dimensional surface as a flat two-dimensional surface. Wisconsin geology professor Arthur H. Robinson created the first Robinson projection in 1963. This type of map is the most common type that depicts the earth as an ellipse with a flat top and bottom section.


  • Arthur H. Robinson initially named the Robinson projection the orthophanic projection. Orthophanic means "right appearing." However, this name did not stick with the people. Another name for the Robinson projection is the pseudocylindrical projection with pole lines. The pole lines described how Robinson depicted north and south poles on the Robinson projection. This projection displays both poles as lines and not points.


  • The Robinson projection does not use math formulas, but tabular coordinates to assure the world looks right. The map evenly separates the latitude and longitude lines across the entire projection. All of the lines appear curved, except for the straight longitude line in the middle of the map along the central meridian.


  • The Robinson projection map has some distorted points. The greatest distortion appears near the north and south poles. The range for acceptable distortion on the Robinson projection maps is about 45 degrees north to south.


  • Map manufacturers, educators and various other people select this type of projection for a variety of circumstances. For example, teachers typically introduce the Robinson projection in an elementary classroom setting, usually when they hang an oval-shaped map on the wall. Rand McNally, a company that produces map, navigational information and travel products for customers, uses the Robinson projection extensively, including on its Rand McNally Goode's World Atlas.


  • Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
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