Oronce Fine

Fine was a French polymath, accomplished in mathematics, astronomy, fortification strategy, graphic design, and cartography.

Born in Briançon, the son and grandson of physicians, he was educated at the Collège de Navarre, Paris, and obtained a degree in medicine in 1522. In 1531, he was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the Collège Royal (the present Collège de France), founded by Francis I of France, where he taught until his death.

His Protomathesis (1532), includes four parts that cover most of Fine’s work on arithmetic, surveying, cosmography (Cosmographia sive De Mundi Sphaera, dated 1530), and “dialing”. On the verso of the title-page Fine is also acknowledged as the creator of the many woodcuts that illustrate the work: outline diagrams, an alphabet, surveying operations, scientific instruments – including a clepsydra, or water-clock which Fine invented – and a self-portrait of the author.

Fine’s first published map, Nova Totius Galliae Descriptio (1525), is the first map of France, printed in France, by Simon de Colline in Paris. But, he is best known for his double-cordiform or double-heart-shaped world map on a polar projection, and subsequently frequently used by other cartographers, such as Gerardus Mercator. Oronce Fine’s maps are particularly notable for his attempts to reconcile the discoveries in the New World with old medieval legends and information (derived from Ptolemy) regarding the Orient.