Motives for Patenting a Map Projection: Did Fame Trump Fortune?

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John Parr Snyder claimed that patenting a map projection was largely pointless because essentially similar transformations are readily available in the public domain. Map projection patents are rare, many patentees did not attempt to develop their patents, and none who did seems to have made much money. An explanation for their decision to patent lies in recognition that the patent system and peer-reviewed scientific journals are parallel literatures, either of which can satisfy an innovator’s need for attention, as suggested by achievement motivation theory. Moreover, no single factor can account for the invention of a map projection that was patented: not mathematical expertise; not work experience as a draftsman, map publisher, or professional geographer; and not prior experience with the patents system. But for all but one of the 17 inventors for whom microdata research tools yielded basic details about their lives, at least one of these factors was present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-202
Number of pages7
JournalCartographic Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018


  • History of cartography
  • John Parr Snyder
  • achievement motivation theory
  • invention
  • map projection
  • patents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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