Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) comes 8th on the list of most famous Belgians. He is renowned for his maps, for which he collected details of heights and widths from travelers. A lot of the details, however, are conjectured from a mixture of knowledge and fantasy.
It was his idea to use the term ‘atlas’ for a collection of maps bound together in one volume.
He wanted to be able to put a lot of information onto his maps, so he started to look for the most suitable typeface. He was looking for letters that are legible even in small print and ornamental at the same time, because he prided himself in products that were a treat for the eye.
In 1541 he published a manual on the proper use of ‘Italics’. This type of writing originates in Italy, and he was the first to refer to it by its geographical name. In present-day English, the term Italics has become the common place term to refer to this font. His manual was in Latin and meant for scientists.
He does not recommend italics for everyday use, but reserves its use to captions or legends of illustrations, to maps and instruments. And so be it.