Physical Map of the Indian Ocean


Philippe Buache (1700‒1773) was one of the most prominent geographers of the 18th century at a time when Paris was a center for cartography. He studied mathematics and architecture and was the preeminent student of the French cartographer Guillaume de L'Isle (1675–1726). Buache went on to marry de L’Isle’s daughter and inherit his workshop. In 1729 he became the principal geographer to the king and the following year was elected to the Académie des Sciences as de L’Isle’s successor. Buache was known for his theoretical work in physical geography. He was one of the first cartographers to use contour lines to represent relief on maps. He published a number of major works including Considérations géographiques et physiques sur les nouvelles découvertes au nord de la Grande Mer (Geographical and physical considerations of the new discoveries to the north of the Great Sea, 1753), Le parallèle des fleuves des quatre parties du Monde, pour servir a déterminer les hauteurs des montagnes du Globe physique de la Terre (A comparison of the rivers of the four parts of the world, in order to determine the heights of the mountains of the physical globe of the earth, 1753), Mémoire sur les différentes idées qu’on a eues de la traversée de la mer glaciale arctique (Treatise on the various ideas considered for crossing the frozen Arctic Sea,1754), and Considérations géographiques et physiques sur les terres australes et antarctiques (Geographical and physical issues of the southern and Antarctic lands, 1761). This map was based on a presentation to the Académie des Sciences in 1744, although it was only published some ten years later. Buache was significant for formulating a theory about the importance of watersheds in physical geography. This map is intended as an illustration of that theory, as can be seen in the systems of mountain ranges forming basins from which the rivers issue and flow into the oceans. The map is indicative of a careful scientific mind; the continent of Australia, for example, is only delineated according to the latest discoveries and left in an unfinished state. The Paris meridian is demarcated, although the map uses the older Ferro meridian, located farther to the west, as its prime meridian. The map was engraved by F. Desbruslins in 1757.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Carte physique de la mer des Indes

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 map : color ; 30 x 34 centimeters


  • This plate is from: Cartes et tables de la géographie physique ou naturelle.
  • Map scale 1:75,000,000

Last updated: January 3, 2018