Vol. 1 No. 1 (2021)

The Brief History of Early Marine-Navigation

Published 2021-09-30


  • Early Navigation Transportation,
  • Navigational Instrument,
  • Compass,
  • Armillary Sphere,
  • Dead-Reckoning,
  • Nautical Almanac,
  • Ancient Greek,
  • Classics,
  • De Magnete,
  • Eratosthenes
  • ...More

How to Cite

SELBESOĞLU, H. Şeyma, BARUTÇU, B., & ÇÖKELEZ, A. (2021). The Brief History of Early Marine-Navigation. Advanced Geomatics, 1(1), 14–20. Retrieved from https://publish.mersin.edu.tr/index.php/geomatics/article/view/39


This work was supported by Scientific Research Projects Department of Istanbul Technical University. Project Number: 42512. The aim of this study is to examine in the beginnings and development of early navigation systems and to reveal their relationship with disciplines such as astronomy, cartography, horology and map-making. Since prehistoric times, people have been travelling using waterways and highways. Before the transporting by air, oceans was the only way for early intercontinental transportation. Thus, people learned building simple boats to cross seas. As progressing of marine-navigation technologies, the importance of calculating route made it necessary to measure time and distance. Early navigators sailed by observing the celestial bodies such as the sun, moon and stars through the astronomical information. Especially the transition from the earth-centered universe model to heliocentric (Copernican) has astronomically affected the entire early navigation period. Moreover, navigators used early navigation tools such as dead reckoning and cross-staff. And also, they made nautical almanac called ‘’parapegmata’’ in Greek and used primitively designed compasses. Despite all these developments sailors mostly have lost their route due to misinterpreted rotations. Also it has not been easy to make accurate measurements on ships until the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries.


  1. Author U (1919). Principal Facts of The Earth's Magnetism and Methods of Determining the True Meridian and The Magnetic Declination. (E. JONES, Dü.) Department of Commerce U.S.Coast and Geodetic Survey, Washington.
  2. Bagrow L (1966). History of Cartography. (R. Skelton, Dü.) C.A.Watts & Co, London.
  3. Bunbury E H (1883). A History of Ancient Geography among the Greeks and Romans: from the earliest ages till the fall of the Roman Empire. Published by John Murray, London.
  4. Colcestrensis G G (1600). De magnete, magneticisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure. Londini.
  5. Connors C (2016). Eratosthenes, Strabo, and the Geographer’s Gaze. Pacific Coast Philology, 46(2), 139-152.
  6. F Fleck H (2018). Dizionario di Nautica e Marineria. (Electronic Resource)
  7. Freudenthal G (1983). Theory of Matter and Cosmology in William Gilbert’s De Magnete. ISIS, 74(1), 22-37.
  8. Geary D (1995). Using a map and compass. Mechanicsburg: PA: Stackpole Books.
  9. Johnston A, Connor R, Stephens C & Ceruzzi P (2015). Time and Navigation The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There. (G. McNamee, Dü.) Smithsonian Books, Washington.
  10. Liddell H & Scott R (2009). Greek-English Lexicon. Salt Digitized by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Lake City, Utah.
  11. McLeod A (2016). Astronomy in the Ancient World Early and Modern Views on Celestial Events. Springer International Publishing AG.
  12. Nelson J H (1962). Magnetism of the Earth. U.S. Govt.Print.Off. Washington.
  13. Rossi C & Russo F (2009). Ancient Engineers' Inventions Precursors of the Present. Springer, Milano.
  14. Selbesoğlu, H Ş (2021). Bilim Tarihinde Denizcilik ve Navigasyon, İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü, Bilim ve Teknoloji Tarihi Anabilim Dalı, İstanbul.
  15. Unat P (2013). İlkçağlardan Günümüze Astronomi Tarihi. Nobel Akademik Yayıncılık, Ankara (in Turkish).
  16. Pollio, V (2017). De Architectura (Mimarlık Üzerine). (E. Çoraklı, & Ç. Dürüşken, Çev.) Alfa Yayınları, İstanbul.
  17. Taylor, E G R (1951). Early Charts and the Origin of the Compass Rose. The Journal of Navigation, 4(4), 351-356.
  18. Wright, J K (1923). Notes on the Knowledge of Latitudes and Longitudes in the middle ages. ISIS, 5(1), 75-98.