Robinson projection

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Robinson projection of the world Robinson projection SW.jpg
Robinson projection of the world
The Robinson projection with Tissot's indicatrix of deformation Robinson with Tissot's Indicatrices of Distortion.svg
The Robinson projection with Tissot's indicatrix of deformation

The Robinson projection is a map projection of a world map which shows the entire world at once. It was specifically created in an attempt to find a good compromise to the problem of readily showing the whole globe as a flat image. [1]


The Robinson projection was devised by Arthur H. Robinson in 1963 in response to an appeal from the Rand McNally company, which has used the projection in general-purpose world maps since that time. Robinson published details of the projection's construction in 1974. The National Geographic Society (NGS) began using the Robinson projection for general-purpose world maps in 1988, replacing the Van der Grinten projection. [2] In 1998 NGS abandoned the Robinson projection for that use in favor of the Winkel tripel projection, as the latter "reduces the distortion of land masses as they near the poles". [3] [4]

Strengths and weaknesses

The Robinson projection is neither equal-area nor conformal, abandoning both for a compromise. The creator felt that this produced a better overall view than could be achieved by adhering to either. The meridians curve gently, avoiding extremes, but thereby stretch the poles into long lines instead of leaving them as points. [1]

Hence, distortion close to the poles is severe but quickly declines to moderate levels moving away from them. The straight parallels imply severe angular distortion at the high latitudes toward the outer edges of the map – a fault inherent in any pseudocylindrical projection. However, at the time it was developed, the projection effectively met Rand McNally's goal to produce appealing depictions of the entire world. [5] [6]

I decided to go about it backward. … I started with a kind of artistic approach. I visualized the best-looking shapes and sizes. I worked with the variables until it got to the point where, if I changed one of them, it didn't get any better. Then I figured out the mathematical formula to produce that effect. Most mapmakers start with the mathematics.

1988 New York Times article [1]


The projection is defined by the table: [7] [8] [9]


The table is indexed by latitude at 5-degree intervals; intermediate values are calculated using interpolation. Robinson did not specify any particular interpolation method, but it is reported that he used Aitken interpolation himself. [10] The X column is the ratio of the length of the parallel to the length of the equator; the Y column can be multiplied by 0.2536 [11] to obtain the ratio of the distance of that parallel from the equator to the length of the equator. [7] [9]

Coordinates of points on a map are computed as follows: [7] [9]

where R is the radius of the globe at the scale of the map, λ is the longitude of the point to plot, and λ0 is the central meridian chosen for the map (both λ and λ0 are expressed in radians).

Simple consequences of these formulas are:

See also

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Sinusoidal projection pseudocylindrical equal-area map projection

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Lambert cylindrical equal-area projection

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Kavrayskiy VII projection

The Kavrayskiy VII projection is a map projection invented by Soviet cartographer Vladimir V. Kavrayskiy in 1939 for use as a general-purpose pseudocylindrical projection. Like the Robinson projection, it is a compromise intended to produce good-quality maps with low distortion overall. It scores well in that respect compared to other popular projections, such as the Winkel tripel, despite straight, evenly spaced parallels and a simple formulation. Regardless, it has not been widely used outside the former Soviet Union.

Wagner VI projection

Wagner VI is a pseudocylindrical whole Earth map projection. Like the Robinson projection, it is a compromise projection, not having any special attributes other than a pleasing, low distortion appearance. Wagner VI is equivalent to the Kavrayskiy VII horizontally elongated by a factor of ​. This elongation results in proper preservation of shapes near the equator but slightly more distortion overall. The aspect ratio of this projection is 2:1, as formed by the ratio of the equator to the central meridian. This matches the ratio of Earth’s equator to any meridian.

Cylindrical equal-area projection

In cartography, the cylindrical equal-area projection is a family of cylindrical, equal-area map projections.

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Eckert II projection equal-area pseudocylindrical map projection devised by Max Eckert-Greifendorff

The Eckert II projection is an equal-area pseudocylindrical map projection. In the equatorial aspect the network of longitude and latitude lines consists solely of straight lines, and the outer boundary has the distinctive shape of an elongated hexagon. It was first described by Max Eckert in 1906 as one of a series of three pairs of pseudocylindrical projections. Within each pair, the meridians have the same shape, and the odd-numbered projection has equally spaced parallels, whereas the even-numbered projection has parallels spaced to preserve area. The pair to Eckert II is the Eckert I projection.

Central cylindrical projection

The central cylindrical projection is a perspective cylindrical map projection. It corresponds to projecting the Earth's surface onto a cylinder tangent to the equator as if from a light source at Earth's center. The cylinder is then cut along one of the projected meridians and unrolled into a flat map.

Natural Earth projection map projection

The natural Earth projection is a pseudocylindrical map projection designed by Tom Patterson and introduced in 2012. It is neither conformal nor equal-area.


  1. 1 2 3 John Noble Wilford (October 25, 1988). "The Impossible Quest for the Perfect Map". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  2. Snyder, John P. (1993). Flattening the Earth: 2000 Years of Map Projections. University of Chicago Press. p. 214. ISBN   0226767469.
  3. "National Geographic Maps – Wall Maps – World Classic (Enlarged)". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2019-02-17. This map features the Winkel Tripel projection to reduce distortion of land masses as they near the poles.
  4. "Selecting a Map Projection". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  5. Myrna Oliver (November 17, 2004). "Arthur H. Robinson, 89; Cartographer Hailed for Map's Elliptical Design". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  6. New York Times News Service (November 16, 2004). "Arthur H. Robinson, 89 Geographer improved world map". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 Ipbuker, C. (July 2005). "A Computational Approach to the Robinson Projection". Survey Review. 38 (297): 204–217. doi:10.1179/sre.2005.38.297.204 . Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  8. "Table for Constructing the Robinson Projection". Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  9. 1 2 3 Snyder, John P.; Voxland, Philip M. (1989). "An Album of Map Projections". (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1453. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 82–83, 222–223. doi:10.3133/pp1453 . Retrieved 2019-02-18.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. Richardson, R. T. (1989). "Area deformation on the Robinson projection". The American Cartographer. 16 (4): 294–296. doi:10.1559/152304089783813936.
  11. From the formulas below, this can be calculated as .

Further reading