Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society
Portrait of J. N. Nicollet (1786-1843)

Joseph Nicollet (1786-1843) was a French mathematician, astronomer, cartographer, and explorer who made three expeditions along the Mississippi River between 1835 and 1839. Nicollet’s 1843 Hydrographical Map documents the area between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers including Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Nicollet’s scholarly work and exploration brought him into contact with French settlers, fur traders, Jesuit missionaries, European botanists, Native Americans, and the fledgling U.S. government.  His map, as well as his expedition diaries, mark a liminal point in the history of cartography, exploration, and geography in North America.


Bray, Martha Coleman. Joseph Nicollet and his map. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1994.