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swisstopo historic

Once upon a time, there was the Dufour map ... How did cadastral surveying start in Switzerland and become world famous? That’s what pupils will be learning on swisstopo historic’s interactive web application.

The history of the Dufour map is as thrilling as an adventure novel. It treads dangerous territory, tells of pine trees used as signposts and a great boulder in Geneva harbour by the name of Pierre du Niton. Material like this is perfect for the classroom.

As a teacher, the swisstopo historic web application is at your fingertips to help you teach the A to Z of the history of the Dufour map and thereby the history of cadastral surveying in Switzerland. It is suitable for pupils at the upper secondary level in both grammar and vocational schools.


Where is the sea?

In 28 short articles, pupils will learn which challenges were encountered in cadastral surveying in the nineteenth century. In order to measure the height of mountains more precisely than just relative to each other, they needed a point known to be absolute sea level. But there was one small problem: Switzerland is landlocked. So how can sea level be determined? This and other tricky questions are addressed in swisstopo historic’s “Map memories” tool. 


Dufour, the pioneer

The Dufour map is considered Switzerland’s first topographical map. It was created on the initiative of Guillaume Henri Dufour, the then Colonel Quartermaster of the Federation, and was printed onto copper plates in 1865. swisstopo historic sheds some light onto this pioneering work: pupils will learn, for example, about the role played by the alidade tool and why topographers always carried a field book. 


Face-to-face and remote teaching

As a teacher, you will also have access to teaching resources. These contain material for both face-to-face and remote teaching or stimulates topical discussions that can be implemented in the form of group work. As a teacher, you will help the pupils gain a better understanding of maps who will, in turn, understand why Switzerland is globally renowned in the field of topography.

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
+41 58 469 01 11


Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern

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