What does Atlas Mean?

Atlas is the name, in Greek mythology, of the giant who supports the Earth and the sky on his shoulders. Son of Iapetus and Clymene, Atlas is a titan who was condemned to carry the planet by Zeus.

The term has many uses today. By extension to the mythological concept, atlas is the name of the first vertebra of the cervicals, which is in direct contact with the occipital bone and immediately supports the head.

Another very frequent use of atlases is in reference to the collection of maps (geographical, historical or of another type) that are compiled in the same volume. The atlases, according to their contents, can be national, regional or universal. For example: “When I was a child, I was fascinated by looking at the atlas maps that my grandfather had in his library”, “I’m going to go to the library to find an atlas: I have to consult a map of the Roman Empire”, “Miguel is trying to find the town where we will go on vacation in the atlas ”.


The notion of an atlas is common in astronomy. That name is called a family of American rockets, a moon of the planet Saturn and at a space observatory NASA that is under study.

The Atlas de Gualadajara club is a Mexican soccer team that competes in the First Division tournament. He became champion in 1950-1951 and won several editions of the Mexico Cup.

Finally, Charles Atlas (1892 – 1972) was a bodybuilder who invented a popular method of bodybuilding that bears his name.

From print to Google Maps

Until the early 1990s, the word atlas was associated with printed books, a perfect companion to an encyclopedia, a large volume that dazzled its readers with its impressive full-color maps full of interesting and unusual information. from all over the planet. For those who did not have one at home, there were libraries; the lucky ones, on the other hand, surely reserved a special place on their shelves for this source of world knowledge.

With the arrival of Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, little by little the use of reference books in physical format decreased, and its World Atlas left millions of users speechless at the possibility of freely manipulating a digital globe, to Intuitively search for the point on the map they want to explore and, once found, approach it, watching with the typical amazement of the pre-smartphone era how a planisphere map gradually transforms into a local one.

Just as the immense popularity of Wikipedia helped the public to lose interest in Encarta until Microsoft discontinued it, the ubiquitous Google Maps became a kind of atlas that a large percentage of the world’s population consults daily as part of their virtual tasks. However, it was not until March 2014 that Google officially turned this powerful service into an atlas.

The atlas of Google Maps allows its users to apply layers on the maps to study population statistics, the changes in temperatures around the world in a given period, historical maps of various cities and the consequences of deforestation. All of this, accompanied by descriptions and the possibility of acquiring physical copies of the various maps. Among the companies that collaborate with this project is none other than National Geographic.

Even for many defenders of traditional literature, printed on paper and protected by strong and tangible covers, it is fascinating to observe an animated capture of the Earth at night, with the twinkling lights of its cities, or a map of Tokyo in the 17th century to compare it with the current one.