Thomas Harriot (c. 1560 – 2 July 1621) was an eminent English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer, and translator. During his lifetime Harriot was known to the world merely as an eminent algebraist but there are evidences now to prove his greatness as an astronomer as well as cartographer. Relevant papers at the West Sussex Record Office show that Harriot drew images of the Moon several months earlier (July 1609) than Galileo Galilee, who is credited for the first telescopic observations and maps of the Moon (December 1609). According to Dr Allan Chapman, a science historian at Oxford University, “Thomas Harriot was not only the first person ever to draw an astronomical body with a telescope on 26 July 1609, he rapidly developed to become an absolutely superb lunar cartographer. Harriot’s composite drawing of the Moon – produced in 1612 or 1613 – marked the birth of modern cartography“.
An article on BBC News’ website reports that Harriot’s Moon maps, along with his images of Jupiter’s satellites, sunspots and Halley’s Comet are to go on display to mark the launch of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 09). The article also quotes astronomer Sir Patrick Moore saying “Looking at Harriot’s map, it really is a work of art. He saw the mountains, craters and the so-called seas.” The few images I came across of Harriot’s map in the web are truely impressive, especially for his time.