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Alexander Keith Johnston


1804 - 1871

Cartographer, publisher and geographer. Born in Kirkhill (Penicuik, Midlothian), Johnston was educated at the High School and University in Edinburgh. He trained as an engraver and cartographer and, with his brother William, set up the noted geographical publishing house of W. & A.K. Johnston in 1826. The firm published maps, atlases, globes and gazetteers, including a National Atlas of General Geography (1843), which saw Johnston appointed Geographer Royal for Scotland, a Dictionary of Geography (1850) and the first physical globe, which gained him a prize at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and is now preserved in the offices of the Royal Geographical Society (London). Johnston brought innovations to the study of geography and pioneered the development of thematic atlases, including a Physical Atlas (1846), which illustrated the botany, geology, hydrology, meteorology and zoology of the globe, an Astronomical Atlas (1851), his Atlas of Natural Phenomena, which was an enormous task, and a noted Royal Atlas (1861). He was deeply involved in geographical exploration, worked with the Royal Geographical Society to plan expeditions to Africa and was a friend of David Livingstone (1813-73).

Johnston died in Yorkshire (England). His firm went on to publish a highly-regarded Gazetteer of Scotland (1937) but the name disappeared when the company was taken over in the 1960s.


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