A Life Dedicated to Cartography: Sehavet Mersinoglu Exhibition
Oct 25, 2016

Those who achieve firsts carve their names in history, in whatever domain it might be. ITU will host an exhibition that will feature a collection of Sehavet Mersinoglu's (MSc) handwritten maps and notes as well as the course book “Geoscience Cartography”, which was penned by her. The exhibition, to be displayed for a period of two weeks in Mustafa Inan Library at Ayazaga Campus after it is opened by ITU Rector Prof. Mehmet Karaca on October 27, 10:30, aims to shed light onto Turkey’s history of cartography through the works of Sehavet Mersinoglu, Turkey’s first woman cartographer. The exhibition also aims to enliven the memory of Sehavet Mersinoglu, whose entire archive and collection of books were donated to ITU by her family, and pass her spiritual legacy to the next generations.


About Sehavet Mersinoglu

Sehavet Mersinoglu (MSc), born in Istanbul in 1922, received drawing lessons from cartoonist Cemal Nadir, who discovered her drawing and painting skills. Upon finishing Beylerbeyi Primary School in 1933 and then Inonu Girls’ High School in 1936, she simultaneously attended two universities: Institute of Geography at Istanbul University and Fine Arts Academy (known today as Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University). Starting higher education at the Department of Painting, Mersinoglu received her first degree in 1944 and the second one in 1947. Working as a research assistant during the period between 1945-1947 at the Institute of Geology, Istanbul University, Mersinoglu continued her career with MSc studies at the University of Wisconsin, where her drawing skills and geology knowledge enabled her to work under the supervision of the world famous cartographer Arthur Robinson. After receiving her MSc degree, Mersinoglu first worked at the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA) and then at the United Nations Headquarters during the period betwen 1952-1954, boasting being the first woman cartographer at the UN. Also, throughout the years 1954-1967, Mersinoglu commuted between Ankara and Istanbul every week in order to teach sketching courses. She went to Chicago in 1966, 1970, and 1975 to work as a cartographer in the company called Rand McNally. During her years in Chicago, she improved her map and atlas making expertise and learned the latest techniques on map printing and librarianship.


Mersinoglu played an active role in the establishment of the Natural History Museum at MTA and visited many countries including Soviet Russia, England, Scotland, United States of America, and European countries, to improve her cartography knowledge and expertise. Earning her place in history through her successful career, between 1969-1970, the prominent Turkish scientist learned natural history museum techniques at the Smithsonian Institute on the one hand, while on the other hand working at the US Geological Institute. Between 1976-77 Mersinoglu studied “computerized cartography” at the University of Pittsburgh. Aside from realizing her greatest dreams, which were producing a national atlas for Turkey and establishing a natural history museum in the country, she shared expertise with others by involving in a wide range of work processes in various settings such printing house, photography house, and painting house.


Right after her retirement in 1980, Sehavet Mersinoglu spent three months in Somalia as part of a United Nations post and worked at the United Nations General Secretariat for another three months. As part of United Nations Development Program, Mersinoglu worked in Ethiopia for 5 years and then in Malawi, Kenya, and Yemen for periods from 4 to 6 weeks. In addition to her outstanding works that shed light on Turkey’s history of cartography, Mersinoglu produced oil paintings.