Geographic coordinate system

Longitude lines are perpendicular to and latitude lines are parallel to the equator.

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system used in geography that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. [n 1] The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position, and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. [1]

To specify a location on a two-dimensional map requires a map projection. [2]


The invention of a geographic coordinate system is generally credited to Eratosthenes of Cyrene, who composed his now-lost Geography at the Library of Alexandria in the 3rd century BC. [3] A century later, Hipparchus of Nicaea improved on this system by determining latitude from stellar measurements rather than solar altitude and determining longitude by timings of lunar eclipses, rather than dead reckoning. In the 1st or 2nd century, Marinus of Tyre compiled an extensive gazetteer and mathematically-plotted world map using coordinates measured east from a prime meridian at the westernmost known land, designated the Fortunate Isles, off the coast of western Africa around the Canary or Cape Verde Islands, and measured north or south of the island of Rhodes off Asia Minor. Ptolemy credited him with the full adoption of longitude and latitude, rather than measuring latitude in terms of the length of the midsummer day. [4]

Ptolemy's 2nd-century Geography used the same prime meridian but measured latitude from the equator instead. After their work was translated into Arabic in the 9th century, Al-Khwārizmī's Book of the Description of the Earth corrected Marinus' and Ptolemy's errors regarding the length of the Mediterranean Sea, [n 2] causing medieval Arabic cartography to use a prime meridian around 10° east of Ptolemy's line. Mathematical cartography resumed in Europe following Maximus Planudes' recovery of Ptolemy's text a little before 1300; the text was translated into Latin at Florence by Jacobus Angelus around 1407.

In 1884, the United States hosted the International Meridian Conference, attended by representatives from twenty-five nations. Twenty-two of them agreed to adopt the longitude of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England as the zero-reference line. The Dominican Republic voted against the motion, while France and Brazil abstained. [5] France adopted Greenwich Mean Time in place of local determinations by the Paris Observatory in 1911.

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Geografische Lage
Bân-lâm-gú: Keng-hūi-tō͘
Basa Banyumasan: Sistem koordinat geografi
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Геаграфічныя каардынаты
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Thi-lî chhô-phêu ne-thúng
한국어: 지리 좌표계
hornjoserbsce: Geografiske koordinaty
Bahasa Indonesia: Sistem koordinat geografi
íslenska: Bauganet jarðar
Lëtzebuergesch: Geographesch Koordinaten
Baso Minangkabau: Sistem koordinat geografis
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Dê-lī cô̤-biĕu hiê-tūng
日本語: 地理座標系
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Geografik koordinatalar
Plattdüütsch: Geograafsche Laag
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Geografske koordinate
татарча/tatarça: Geografik koordinatalar
Türkmençe: Koordinatalar
中文: 经纬度