GSU Magazine profile of work on OSS and mapping


I’m excited to announce that GSU Magazine has done a feature story on my work on the OSS and mapping.

The story covers the work I’ve been doing in the National Archives on the OSS and its Map Division, which was headed by the cartographer and geographer Arthur (“Robbie”) Robinson. Personnel records of the OSS were only declassified 2 years ago. The OSS was the first coordinated intelligence agency of the United States and was headed by WWI army colonel Wild Bill Donovan. Donovan once said that “the ideal OSS operative is a PhD who can win a bar fight”!

Robinson was a PhD candidate at the time, as he was hired away for wartime service. He became a Major while at OSS, and afterwards went on University of Madison-Wisconsin. His Division produced some 3,000 maps during the war, not to mention assembling the biggest ever mapping intelligence library of 2.5 million maps. He was President of both The International Cartographic Association and the Association of American Geographers (1963).

When I went to have my picture taken (above), the photographer suggested the map area of the library, naturally enough, and posed me with rolls of maps they asked me to bring. What I realised when I got there was that when the remodeling of that floor had been done recently they’d printed a huge world map on the wall…of a Robinson projection! Great serendipity.


6 responses to “GSU Magazine profile of work on OSS and mapping

  1. Pingback: Roundup – WW2 maps, Right-Badiouians, and the End of the World | Progressive Geographies

  2. Terrain Models Made
    With Two New Devices
    CONSTRUCTION of three-dimen-
    sional terrain models, long known to
    map makers, but too costly and inaccu-
    rate for popular production, has been
    revolutionized into a science, with the
    invention of two devices, the Atcorob
    and the Orthojector. Designed and con-
    structed during the war to prepare
    models for operational planning, these
    inventions permit production of accu-
    rate and detailed models of any area
    on the globe.
    The Atcorob is an ingenious device
    that accomplishes in two operations
    what formerly required eight different
    procedures. Contour lines from a topo-
    graphic map can be quickly and accu-
    rately indicated on a block of solid plas-
    ter and reproduced by carving down to
    the surface of the image. Contours ap-
    pear on the model exactly as on the map
    except that they are three-dimensional.
    “No other device or method of con-
    struction has approached the Atcorob
    in ability to reproduce terrain features,”
    said Maj. Wallace W. Atwood, Jr., Chief
    of the Staff Service Model Section of the
    War Department.
    The Atcorob was conceived ‘by Maj.
    Atwood, Prof. H. L. Cooke of Princeton
    University and Capt. A. H. Robinson,
    Chief of the Map Division of the Office
    of Strategic Services. It takes its name
    from the first two initials of the in-
    ventor’s names. The equipment was de-
    signed by Prof. Cooke and Dr. R.
    Prickett, and constructed by them at the
    Palmer Laboratories in Princeton, N. J.
    The Orthojector, devised by the same
    group, is helpmate to the Atcorob and
    makes possible a projection of map or
    photo transparencies onto the surface
    of any type relief model. Information
    may be transferred onto a flat or irregular
    surface without the distortion obtained
    in the previous single-lens projectors.
    The information projected onto the
    surface is in its correct position. Roads
    go through correct passes, rivers through
    their valleys. The Orthojector is the only
    instrument thus far produced which
    assures accurate projection such as this on
    a relief surface.
    Science News Letter, January 12, 1946

    • Great find. Thank you for reproducing the whole text. The only other mention I’ve found of the Atcorob was in the secret OSS files, only declassified many decades after the war (The War Report of the OSS, by Kermit Roosevelt). Now I’m intrigued to find out more.

      See my post on it here.

  3. Great find, again! Any chance of a link…?

  4. Here is the article on Contour Mapping. Scanned at 600dpi.

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