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Urban Schertenleib:

Fridolin Becker (1854–1922): topographer, cartographer, and innovator

Cartographica Helvetica 15 (1997) 3–10


The work of Fridolin Becker (1854–1922) on the development of the hillshading technique nowadays represents an integral part of the Swiss mapping tradition. Becker, having worked as topographer at the Swiss Topographical Bureau for several years, was in 1884 employed as assistant and later appointed to a professorship at the Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich). In this function, Becker strongly influenced the cartography, not only by drawing numerous maps, but also by constructing relief models and publishing remarkable papers related to basic knowledge. One of his students was Eduard Imhof, his successor to the chair for cartography.

It was Becker who insisted in publishing topographic maps with hillshading tints and who searched for solutions to represent three-dimensional impressions. In 1889 he produced a map of the canton of Glarus with an extraordinary hillshading, based on contour lines and the systematics of colouring techniques known in arts. Twenty years later he used his wide experience to develop a colour scheme for the Swiss Secondary School Atlas. This atlas represents still a fascinating synthesis of scientific accuracy and freedom of art.

Bibliographic note

  • Based on a paper read at 8. Kartographiehistorisches Colloquium, Bern, 3 to 5 October 1996.
  • Also published as: Fridolin Becker (1854–1922): Topograph, Kartograph, Innovator. In: 8. Kartographiehistorisches Colloquium Bern 1996. Vorträge und Berichte. ed. Wolfgang Scharfe. Murten, 2000. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 16). pp. 17–28.

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