Circa AD 150, Ptolemy of Alexandria produced his Geographia, a gazeteer, atlas and treatise on cartography, which complied the geographical knowledge of the Roman Empire. How? By conducting what could be considered a systematic review. Firstly, by searching a database to find all of the material on the topic – “the first step in a proceeding of this kind is systematic research, assembling the maximum of knowledge from the reports of people with scientific training who have toured the individual countries…” This he did thanks to the consultation of the Pinakes, the first known library catalogue housed at the Library of Alexandria and created by Callimachus c.250 BC. This was followed by doing a synthesis of the data, which was ultimately used to inform policy and practice, for example Christopher Columbus consulted a copy before he set out across the Atlantic Ocean. However, there was systematic bias in the data, leading to a major miscalculation in the distance to the East Indies.
— Prof Martin Underwood, Warwick Medical School
- Brotton J. A History of the World in Twelve Maps. London: Penguin Books. 2013.