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Cartography Expert Dies at 97


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Walter Ristow, a cartography expert who supposedly never got lost, died at the age of 97 on April 3, 2005. Ristow was th headof the map divisions of the New York Public Library and later the U. S. Library of Congress. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times (free registration required) have stories on the man.

From the Washington Post story:
Two years after joining the New York Public Library’s map division in 1937, he went to Germany to explore his ancestral homeland of Pomerania. On the train, he encountered German soldiers mobilizing for the invasion of Poland that launched World War II.

Ristow retreated to London, then boarded one of the final passenger ships to cross the Atlantic in 1939. That year, in the map division's annual report, he wrote: “Emasculated and disheartened Czechoslovakia becomes part of the German Reich! The World is in turmoil and we must have maps!”

One day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ristow was asked to furnish maps of Japan to U.S. authorities. For almost three years, while retaining his position at the New York library, he analyzed maps for the Office of Military Intelligence.
He was an avid map collector and even saved hand-drawn maps that people drew to provide directions to their homes.

By way of Cartotalk.


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