Scientific American | Anecdotes from the Archive: Map Making on Wheels

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Scientific American

Anecdotes from the Archive: Map Making on Wheels

By Mary Karmelek 

Have you ever found yourself stumbling upon some great new restaurant or hiking path and, having no idea how you got there, realize its impossible to get back a second time? If only you had a cyclograph--a device that attached to a bicycle and made a topographical account of where you rode.

The cyclograph was invented by a Mr. Ferguson and featured in the May 28, 1904 issue.

The device was shaped like a horizontal box that sat atop the bicycle’s handlebars. The box contained drawing paper, which, "owing to the meridians that are traced upon it, may be kept constantly in position in the direction of the road according to the indications of a compass mounted upon the top of the box." As the bicycle moved forward, the paper would move backward in the direction of the longitudinal axis of the bicycle and be marked by a small rubber wheel covered in ink. "If the bicyclist makes an angle upon the ground, he turns the paper (guiding himself by the indications of the compass) at an equal angle in the opposite direction."

Apparently, experiments made with the cyclograph yielded positive enough results that a sample was ordered by the Intelligence Branch of the English government in order to study the topography of China.





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