Skip to main content

Published on 8 January 2024

Space and time

This column presents exciting, surprising and adventurous chapters from the history of swisstopo. 

  • Map of Mount McKinley, detail. The map shows a US-American area, but is in the Swiss map layout.

    6 October 2021

    A special collaboration: the map of Mount McKinley from 1960

    A unique mapping project links swisstopo with the highest mountain in North America, Denali. In 1960, when the stone giant was still called Mount McKinley, a map of the mountain was published the appearance of which resembled the Swiss national maps. How did this relationship come about?

  • Satellite ERS-1 in space

    3 June 2021

    Satellite images for all: 40 years of National Point of Contact

    Since 1981, swisstopo's National Point of Contact has been helping satellite imagery users find the products they need.

  • Portrait of Alexandre Stryienski at an advanced age.

    18 January 2021

    Alexandre Stryienski: a topographer in the vortex of continental politics

    Alexandre Stryienski was a Polish-Swiss topographer. He was of great importance for the cartography of the canton of Fribourg.

  • Harvested chestnuts.

    11 November 2020

    The chestnut wood – a remarkable symbol on the Siegfried Map

    From 1914, chestnut forests were marked separately on the Siegfried Map. The reason for this was the valuable tannin contained in chestnuts, which was needed for the military during the First World War.

  • Sighting mark in Portalban (left), sighting mark in Chaumont (right)

    1 October 2020

    The meridian sighting marks of the Neuchâtel Observatory

    From 1859 to 1959, to determine Swiss time the Neuchâtel Observatory observed the passage of the stars above the meridian using a telescope. To make sure that the telescope was correctly adjusted, it was required to scan the north-south axis and identify two marks serving as reference points. These marks still exist today. The southern mark in Portalban has a direct link to swisstopo since it was integrated into the national survey network.

  • Sketch showing the location of the RPN insurance bolt on the boulder in the Lake Geneva basin.

    1 September 2020

    The height stone: the 200-year-old Pierre du Niton marker

    The Swiss reference altitude Repère Pierre du Niton RPN in the Lake Geneva basin is the basis of the Swiss sea level. Previously, the Chasseral was the reference altitude.

  • 8 July 2020

    Switzerland’s pyramids

    You don’t expect to find pyramids in Switzerland, but it is quite possible that you have come across some while hiking or browsing through tourist brochures. Pyramids in Switzerland? How can that be possible?

  • The painting shows four people gathered around a campfire in mountainous terrain. In the background, two men stand behind a theodolite in the fog.

    6 July 2020

    The Theodolite. A high-tech instrument on the Alpine summits

    The theodolite was the angle measuring instrument used to create the basis for Swiss maps. It had to be laboriously transported to its places of use in the Swiss mountains.

  • Virtual representation of the old town of Bern, seen from the air

    13 May 2020

    The long road to the topographical landscape model TLM

    The development of the Topographic Landscape Model TLM was officially completed in December 2019. However, the digitization of map production at swisstopo began back in the 1960s.

  • Aerial photograph of Neuchâtel, 1987, black and white. The town is expanding into the former lake area.

    26 March 2020

    Journey through time – aerial images: 40 years of change in Switzerland

    The SWISSIMAGE orthophoto mosaic produced using aerial images is now also available for 1985 through 1990. The “Journey through time – aerial images” online tool makes it possible to gain a complete view of Switzerland from 1979 to the present.

  • 16 April 2018

    The map of the Rhône Glacier

    swisstopo’s map collection holds many great treasures, including a large-scale map of the Rhône Glacier dating to the end of the 19th century. Produced entirely in watercolour and Indian ink, this unique map also tells the story of the beginning of alpine glacier research.

  • Everest base camp area

    10 December 2017

    How Mount Everest came to Wabern

    After nearly eight years and with the help of numerous people from all over the world working together, a cartographical masterpiece has been brought to life. In 1988, the prestigious National Geographic magazine published a 1:50,000-scale map of Mount Everest, in time to mark the National Geographic Society’s centenary and the 150th anniversary of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography. Here in Wabern, the finishing touches were made to the only map ever to illustrate the so-called Roof of the World in the same level of detail as a national map.

  • Five drawings that were smuggled into the national maps: A fish, a marmot, a face, a mountaineer and a spider.

    20 December 2016

    Hidden images in national maps

    A topographic map is by definition the graphic representation of a territory. Thanks to its high quality, the graphic design of our national maps comes close to reality. However, despite strict requirements concerning precision and rigorousness, they sometimes conceal treasures born of their creator’s imagination.

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Infodesk history
Seftigenstrasse 264
3084 Wabern