Contact address | Imprint

Cartographica Helvetica


Martin Rickenbacher:

The panoramic view of the Alps by Micheli du Crest: A fruit of an attempt to survey Switzerland from 1754

Cartographica Helvetica 11 (1995) 21–34


Jacques-Barthélemy Micheli du Crest (1690–1766), a physician and geodesist from Geneva, spent the last quarter of his lifetime as a political prisoner in the Aarburg castle. During that sentence he constructed the Prospect Geometrique, the first scientific panoramic view of the Alps.

Since he had no opportunity of using modern surveying instruments like theodolite or telescope, he developped his own rather primitive tools and methodes: an eight meter long gutter-pipe, filled with water. With this huge water-level and a small rod, which was held in front of it, he could measure and calculate the height of the various summits. To determinate the distances to those mountains, he had to rely on the famous Scheuchzer map of 1712. Scientists like Albrecht von Haller supplied him the necessary informations of peak names.

Despite his primitive tools, the rather inaccurate distances from the only available map source, and the disregard of the atmospheric refraction he achieved, compared with today's sophisticated methods, remarkable results. The modern panoramic view of the Digital Height Model 1:25,000 (DHM25) is compared with Micheli's original drawing.

Bibliographic note

  • Also published as: Das Alpenpanorama von Micheli du Crest – Frucht eines Versuches zur Vermessung der Schweiz im Jahre 1754. Murten, 1995. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 8).

© 1990–2022 Cartographica Helvetica (Imprint)

Logo Valid HTML 4.01 Logo Valid CSS