History of GIS is long and complicated, and it all started originally from Geography. In 2000 B.C Homer started explaining the importance of Geography in his poetry and around 1000 B.C people started mapping geographic information. Later the concepts of Earth being a flat circular disk started to emerge from Middle East in the Babylon. The Babylonians created the Clay tablets. With evolution, people started working on geography and they created maps of known world using bamboo sticks, bones and leather of animals.

In 200 B.C, Eratosthenes, known as father of geography calculated the circumference of earth accurately. Later on, Ptolemy, Strabo and Al-Idrisi etc worked on geography and cartography. Mercator and Newton followed them and provided a paved road to the future cartographers and geographers to better understand the earth and the geographical phenomenon.

After the invention of paper, Cartographers created maps manual on paper. In 20th century, geography transformed into geographic information system after the invention of computer. Let’s explore how it started its journey from traditional geography to geographic information system (GIS). Let’s discuss History of GIS from 1950 to date.

History of GIS

History of GIS

History of GIS

Multi-layers mapping and analyzing things spatially has been in practice for a long time before the introduction of computers to the geographical world. In Battle of Yortown (1781), the French cartographer “Louis-Alexandre Berthier” created a map that contained hinged overlays to show troop movements.

In 1838 Irish Railway Commissioners published their second report in which Geology population, Superimposition of topography and traffic flow were shown on the same base map in the Atlas.

In September 1854, Dr. John Snow, known as father of modern epidemiology created a map to show the locations of death by cholera in central London. He also found the sources of that viral disease and analyzed how to control it. Dr John’s Cholera map was the base for designing modern GIS software’s.

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In the last 60 years GIS has been growing rapidly and has become a popular science that is applicable in 900+ fields. In early days it was considered to be a rudimentary tool and now its one of the World’s most highly demanded sciences.

We have divided the whole journey into several key milestones for your better understanding.

The Early History of GIS (1960’s)

Geographic information systems (GIS) started in 1960s after the early advancement in computers. It provides the emergence of quantitative geography with computational geography.

In early days GIS was limited only to academic community. Michael Goodchild started his research work on a major GIS topics which were spatial analysis and spatial data visualization in National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis. His research works fueled a quantitative revolution in the field of geography and provided strong base for GIS.

GIS Father Contribution | First GIS use in 1963

Roger Tomlinsons is known as the father of GIS and his pioneering work to initiate, plan, and develop the Canada Geographic Information System resulted in the first computerized GIS in the world in 1963.

First GIS Software | Harvard Lab contributions 1965

Do you know the name of first computerized mapping software and who developed it? Howard Fisher created one of the first computer mapping software programs known as SYMAP Northwestern University in 1964.

The very next year he established the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and this Lab was used to develop and modify computerized mapping software’s. It’s also known as first research center for spatial data analysis and spatial data visualization.

Harvard Laboratory was the hub of talented people from different fields such as Geographers, planners, computer scientists, and many others for developing spatial tools, terminology and specifying the applications of GIS in different fields.

History of GIS

History of GIS

ESRI History: Time for Startup 1969

Do you know world leading GIS Company Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) was started by just one couple Jack Dangermond and his wife Laura in 1969.

In early days ESRI was just a small firm which performed computer mapping and spatial analysis using different computer software’s to help land use planners and land resource managers make informed decisions.

Later on they developed tools for mapping and specified spatial analysis methodology that are still in practice.

GIS Goes Commercial 1981

As computer became more powerful, ESRI improved its software tools. Firstly, GIS was used for problem solving and then through the development of software’s, it was used for multiple helpful purposes.

ESRI’s work gained recognition from the academic community as a new way of doing spatial analysis and planning.

The demands of GIS services started increasing day by day and according to the need of the markets ESRI developed a professional software ARC/INFO for GIS purposes and those were its first commercial software’s too.

This is where the journey of ESRI in software’s developments started.

GIS Today 

GIS is not limited to only professional user but it facilities the public to create their own digital maps for leisure and to solve real word problems. It provides data sharing and collaboration – a facility that gives life to inspiring visionary dreams.

After the successful advancement in robotics sector, demand of local based services increased rapidly. Every day, thousands of organizations are designing millions of web and Mobile friendly maps and static maps to tell reality, future blue prints relationships, and stories about everything.

GIS in Future

According to my opinion GIS is a future tech. Its market values are increasing day by day and it can become a USD 12.7 billion industry by 2024. GIS makes life much easier and helps solve complex problems in just no time.

Recently USAID and DAI conducted a survey about the most preferred choice among youngster and concluded the 46% youngster wanted to adopt geospatial career.

Note: Share your opinion about the future of GIS in comment section below and share it with your friends to discuss how GIS changes our lifestyle.