Milestone-Proposal talk:The First Geographic Information System (GIS) developed in 1962-1968

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Introduction and next steps -- Mislav Grgic (talk) 22:24, 15 January 2021 (UTC)


Dear Milestone Proposer,

I am a member of the IEEE History Committee and I will be the Advocate for this proposal. As Advocate, it is my responsibility to help you bring this proposal to a successful vote by the History Committee. At least two external expert reviews are required before I can recommend this proposal to the Committee.

I will begin compiling a list of possible reviewers. If you have names that you can recommend, please forward them to me.

Mislav Grgic
IEEE History Committee

Assessment by First Reviewer -- Mislav Grgic (talk) 17:52, 16 February 2021 (UTC)

Below is the first review from Professor Mike Ballard, M.A., Geospatial Science; Information and Communications Technology – Applications and Programming, Algonquin College, 1385 Woodroffe Ave., Ottawa, Ontario K2G 1V8, CANADA

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Thank you for your invitation to provide an external expert review.

Review of the Proposal "IEEE Milestone Proposal Docket #:2020-13, GIS":

I have reviewed the proposal for “The First Geographic Information System (GIS) developed in 1962-1968”. The proposal is accurate and appropriate.

I have only these two minor editorial comments:

Under What is the Historical Significance …

“The existing geographical data was not centralized, sufficiently systematized, stored uniformly or easily made available.” – At the time, geographic information was not “data” the way we mean data today. Management of geographic information was through the use of analog maps and aerial photography. The innovation proposed by Dr. Tomlinson was to convert traditional analog maps into computer data. Before the CGIS we did not use the term “geographical data”. It is appropriate to credit Tomlinson with the idea that maps could be treated like data in computers.

Under What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed …

“manual processing of geographical data was slow,” – again, geographic information was not called “data” at the time, as it was primarily analog hand-drawn maps and aerial photography, used to make printing plates for publication. Any reference to systems for managing geographic information prior to CGIS should not be called “data”, but geographic information or geographic knowledge, or maps.

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Re: Assessment by First Reviewer -- B djokic (talk) 04:31, 2 March 2021 (UTC)

As per two editorial comments by the First Reviewer, changes have been made accordingly in the proposal, in the section "What is the historical significance of the work" (a new sentence has been added: "The innovation envisioned and implemented by Dr. Tomlinson was to convert traditional analog maps and aerial photography into computer data and to treat these as computer data.") and in the section "What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?" ("geographical data" has been replaced by "geographical information").

Assessment by Second Reviewer -- Mislav Grgic (talk) 18:08, 16 February 2021 (UTC)

The second review of this Milestone proposal is from Mr. Jack Dangermond, President of Esri, 380 New York Street, Redlands, California 92373-8100, USA. Esri - Environmental Systems Research Institute (founded in 1969) is an international supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications.

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Comment -- Polismpp1125 (talk) 00:37, 1 March 2021 (UTC)

Given the comment on "data" of the first reviewer, should the citation be changed?

Re: Comment -- B djokic (talk) 04:24, 2 March 2021 (UTC)

As per the comment, the citation has been updated to reflect the First Reviewer's comment on "data". Since at the time geographic information was not "data" the way we mean data today, "data" in the citation has been replaced by "information" in its first occurrence. As the last sentence implies the contemporary point of view, it was appropriate to leave geographic "data" in its second occurrence. In addition, the word "information" is already used close by in the same sentence.

Use of Dr. Roger Tomlinson's name in the Milestone citation -- Mislav Grgic (talk) 08:29, 7 March 2021 (UTC)

As a Milestone advocate, I would like to comment on the use of Dr. Roger Tomlinson's name in the Milestone citation. I have been in direct contact with the proposer of this Milestone and we agreed that the use of Dr. Tomlinson's name in the citation is fully justified and essential for this milestone. I would like to invite the proposer to post here his comments and argument(s) in support of this conclusion we have mutually reached.

Re: Use of Dr. Roger Tomlinson's name in the Milestone citation -- B djokic (talk) 01:00, 10 March 2021 (UTC)

The purpose of this IEEE Milestone is to commemorate and celebrate both the first Geographic Information System (GIS) using computer technology and its creator, Dr. Roger Tomlinson. Dr. Tomlinson initiated this original idea in the 1960s, devised it in all relevant aspects, and managed to implement it at the time when many professionals and staff who worked under his guidance did not fully understand his vision. The relevant publications that came out in the course of this development bear his name as the sole author. Moreover, he is widely recognized as the "father of GIS", and his generous sharing of his knowledge and vision has been appreciated by anyone who had a chance to collaborate with him. Dr. Tomlinson passed away in 2014; there is no one, individual or organization, to dispute or take advantage of mentioning his name in the citation on the milestone plaque. The breadth and significance of his accomplishment are such that they justify the inclusion of Dr. Tomlinson’s name in the citation and on the plaque. In this case, the creation and its creator are inseparable.

Re: Re: Use of Dr. Roger Tomlinson's name in the Milestone citation -- Bberg (talk) 17:44, 16 March 2021 (UTC)

I concur with the inclusion of Dr. Tomlinson's name based on these arguments. Inclusion of "father of GIS" in the citation would give great support for this, and the word "computerize" in place of "computer technology" reads a bit better. Thus, I propose changing to first 2 sentences to:

The first Geographic Information System (GIS) was developed in the 1960s at Ottawa's Canadian Department of Forestry and Rural Development by Dr. Roger Tomlinson, the "father of GIS."  Tomlinson computerized the collection, storage, analysis, management and visualization of Canada Land Inventory information.

This reduces the total word count from 71 to 70 as well.

Brian Berg

Re: Re: Re: Use of Dr. Roger Tomlinson's name in the Milestone citation -- B djokic (talk) 13:22, 20 April 2021 (UTC)

The support and comment by the discusser are appreciated. The word count of the citation in its current state is 70. The inclusion of "father of GIS" in the citation would, in general, be welcome by the proposer. Since this would require leaving out the years of the birth and death of Dr. Tomlinson (which would be informative for future milestone visitors to read on the milestone plaque) and a couple of other relevant words in the citation, and in view of additional comments and suggestions, the citation was modified as outlined below.

My support of this proposal -- John Vardalas (talk) 20:47, 18 March 2021 (UTC)

I support this proposal.

support this proposal -- Juan Carlos (talk) 19:13, 22 March 2021 (UTC)

although i'm not familiar with this subject, I consider this proposal worthy of becoming a milestone, given the opinions included in the page and the argumentation of the proposal itself. I'm not quite sure about the inclusion of the name of the project leader.

Assessment by Third Reviewer -- Mislav Grgic (talk) 06:11, 15 April 2021 (UTC)

Please find below a valuable (third) review of this Milestone proposal:


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Thanks for asking me to review the Milestone Proposal and citation. I have devoted much of the past 50 years to GIS as a researcher, teacher, and promoter; a short biosketch and my full CV are at www.geog.ucsb.edu/~good. I established a strong working relationship with Roger in the mid 1970s which continued well into the 1990s. I have frequently written about the role of Roger and CGIS in the invention of GIS.

First, I think it is entirely reasonable to identify Dr. Roger Tomlinson as “the father of GIS”, though I wish there was an easy way of avoiding the gender specificity, or an obvious candidate for mother. It is also entirely reasonable to name him in the citation, because of his unique role in the initial conceptualization of the GIS, the subsequent drawing together of disparate efforts under the rubric of GIS, and the effort Roger devoted to the idea of GIS over four decades. The first GIS, which was developed in Canada, was conceptualized by Dr. Tomlinson, and this GIS was truly groundbreaking.

My suggestion is to widen the scope of the citation by stating that GIS has subsequently revolutionized science and decision-making, and consequently everyday life:

"The first Geographic Information System (GIS) was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Roger Tomlinson (1933-2014) at the Canadian Department of Forestry and Rural Development. He used computer technology to collect, store, analyze, manage and visualize Canada Land Inventory information. GIS has subsequently revolutionized science, decision-making, and everyday life worldwide by allowing overlay, measurement and spatial analysis of geographic data to include information about agriculture, wildlife, forestry, recreation and transportation."

Prof. Dr. Michael F. Goodchild, FISDE, FRGS, FRCGS, FUCGIS, CFBA
Emeritus Professor of Geography
University of California, Santa Barbara
3334 NE Blakeley St
Seattle, WA 98105, USA


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Re: Assessment by Third Reviewer -- B djokic (talk) 13:31, 20 April 2021 (UTC)

The additional, third, expert review of this milestone proposal is appreciated. The Third Reviewer's comment that it is entirely reasonable to identify Dr. Roger Tomlinson as “the father of GIS”, provides another independent expert confirmation that the inclusion of Dr. Tomlinson's name in the citation is fully justified. It also shows that the inclusion of Dr. Tomlinson's name in the citation and on the milestone plaque represents a key information for this proposed milestone and its future visitors, who would certainly want to know the name of the person who stands behind the great achievement indicated by the milestone. As per the reviewer's valuable suggestion to widen the scope of the citation, the citation has been updated accordingly.

Edits to citation -- Administrator4 (talk) 13:26, 22 April 2021 (UTC)

IEEE Milestone citations do not give titles of persons, thus "Dr." should be deleted. The range of dates and the acronymn GIS are given in the title, thus they do not need to be repeated in the body of the citation (thus saving words.) Because Milestones recognise achievements rather than persons, "He used" in the second sentence should be chnagd to "It used."

Background for My Support for this Proposal -- Bberg (talk) 22:01, 26 April 2021 (UTC)

I have been communicating with the team working on this proposal off-line. They have kindly worked in my suggestions, which included adding explicit and clear support for inclusion of Tomlinson's name in the citation in a new "Justification" section immediately following the citation itself. As Advocate for the SSEM and Atlas proposals, I had the authoring team of those proposals do likewise re: the citation including a name, and re: support for the words "invention" and "first" in the citation, since those are strong words which deserved proof of their veracity.

I support this GIS proposal, and wish the best for its approval.