SANSON, NICOLAS (1600-1667), a French cartographer, who, while it is a mistake to call him the creator of French geography, attained a great and well-deserved eminence in his profession. He was born of an old Picardy family of Scottish descent, at Abbeville, on December 20, 1600, and was educated by the Jesuits at Amiens. The mercantile pursuit by which he first sought to make his living proved a failure, but in 1627 he was fortunate enough to attract the attention of Richelieu by a map of Gaul which lie had constructed while still in his teed, and through the cardinal's influence he was appointed royal engineer in Picardy and geographer to the king. How highly his services were appreciated by his royal patrons is shown by the fact that when Louis XIII. came to Abbeville he preferred to become the guest of Sanson (then employed on the fortifications), instead of occupying the sumptuous lodgings provided by the town. Sanson's success was embittered by a quarrel with the Jesuit Labbe, whom he accused of plagiarizing him in his Pharus Gallia Antiques, and by the death of his eldest son Nicolas, killed during the disturbances of the Fronde (1648). He died at Paris July 7, 1667. Two younger sons, Adrien (died 1708) and Guillaume (died 1703), succeeded him as geographers to the king.
Sanson's principal works are ()alike Antiqux Descriptio Geographiea, 1627 ; Britannia, 1638, in which he seeks to identify Strabo's Britannia with Abbeville (!) ; La France, 1644 ; IaPharum Gallia Antiqux Philippi Labbe Disquisitiones, 1647-1648 ; and Geographia Sacra. In 1692 Jaillot collected Sanson's maps in an Atlas Nouveau. His cartography is generally bold and vigorous.