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The History of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) (Prentice Hall Series in Geographic Information Science) Hardcover – November 10, 1997

ISBN-13: 007-6092033172 ISBN-10: 0138621454 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Prentice Hall Series in Geographic Information Science
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR; 1st edition (November 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0138621454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0138621452
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #941,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


It has been quite a few years since the inception of my ideas that became congealed into a project and finally became this book. My recollections of the seeds for this effort begin with my academic career at University of Maryland, Baltimore County where I have been entrusted with teaching Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to some 30 or 40 students a semester since 1992. This humbling experience first required that I reengineer my technical skills in the laboratory and lay out a semester long curriculum of the finest quality I might muster. The semester's first lecture was always easy, what with the introductions of students, instructor, and syllabi. The second lecture was always the stumbler-the history of geographic information systems. What history should I attend to? Could I rely on the textbook version (I wrestled with choices and selected Star and Estes)? Or, should I share with the students my experiences which certainly did not follow the "textbook" story. As with all such human events, I hybridized my experiences with the textbook and gave proper caveats to the students not to take my word, or the word of others for that matter, as the gospel in GIS history. My students have been reminded and remonstrated to use their own critical thought processes and analyze on their own the information they are getting and define for themselves the likely influences past events forged on GIS. Indeed, what might the future hold if these trends continue? And so I continued for the first year at UMBC.

Upon receipt of my own copy of Maguire, Goodchild, and Rhind (1991) in spring of 1993, I was delighted that such a great reference book had been developed and pleased that Coppock and Rhind had written a chapter on "the history of GIS." As I voraciously read the chapter, I was again dismayed that Coppock and Rhind did not share my vision of GIS history. While I applaud their work (it's very scholarly), I became convinced that the reason others did not share my vision was that 1) either they had not stumbled along the same paths as I, or 2) there was not a sufficient body of literature to assist scholars and others interested in GIS as to perspectives of "my world." For example, nowhere was the raster side of GIS presented nor was the utility/engineering side. With this conviction in mind, I tracked down Dr. Roger Tomlinson at the 1994 ESRI Annual Convention (AKA the Palm Springs GIS Party) and discussed with him some of my concerns regarding the lack of good information on GIS's history. He was most generous with me and offered to support a book project by contributing his foundation chapter. After that conversation, I did not require additional encouragement for the project, just input and assistance from the many authors and collaborators involved. I will defer the many notes of thankful assistance to the Acknowledgments section.

So what was unique or different about my vision of GIS history?

First, my start in GIS was not the vector GIS foundation that is ubiquitously cited in the literature. Second, my experience was intertwined with many developed and not-so-developed examples of geographic information studies from the early years. Allow me to recap briefly the mix of vantage points that led to my experiences. The reader is warned to look elsewhere if semi-autobiographies chafe.

My GIS education began while I was a graduate student in the ecology program at San Diego State University. My vegetation study of Camp Pendleton United States Marine Corps Base literally went up in smoke (a major conflagration swept through my coastal study site) prompting me to search for tools that would help me study and model large acreages of the chaparral dominated landscape. Professor Bill Finch of the geography department taught a course in 1975 on remote sensing that I thought might be useful for mapping vegetation (as discerned from the catalog course description). Caesar said it first, but indeed I came, I saw, and I conquered. I ate, drank, and slept remote sensing. There were no software programs in geography to use digital remote sensing and that's wherein serendipity is so wonderful.

Dave Mauriello, fresh from his doctorate at Rutgers, was a visiting lecturer teaching ecological systems modeling. In his grab bag, again literally, was a deck of cards labeled GRID from Harvard. We put our heads together and figured out that we ought to be able to use GRID to analyze, classify, and generate maps of Landsat data. Using only the Landsat Users Guide, my fellow grad students, Ralph Brown and Greg Rhoades, figured how to write the interface programs to get Landsat data into the IBM 360 and generate land cover maps for my thesis. We did so well (our heads did swell just a little) that we started a consulting company called Ecographics of La Jolla, CA. My thesis documented the fire ecology of Camp Pendleton and off we went as young environmental entrepreneurs.

During this early stage many contacts were made, as we visited most every county in California to drum up business. As I was pursuing business possibilities in my home state of Florida, I met Wayne Mooneyhan, whose charge it was to transfer NASA technology to the southern states. He graciously invited my company-me and three graduate student colleagues-to visit the Earth Resources Center in Slidell, LA (the facility later moved to Bay St. Louis, MS). That two-week visit in the fall of 1997 effectively launched my career, as I learned for the first time that there was a whole world out there of scientists and engineers trying their best to harness digital satellite data into environmental information systems for the entire planet (of course we didn't call them GIS back then) and that I was competent enough to contribute to this very exciting and dynamic field.

I had passed my initiation into the raster world of GIS. The excitement is hard to communicate in retrospect; after all, NASA still had its luster of the Apollo era and a lot of terrific people worked at the Slidell complex.

In 1977, Bill Finch recommended that I look up one of his former students at the University of California Santa Barbara, Jack Estes. Jack was a true gentleman the first time I met him and has been a fast friend ever since. I finished my thesis research on Camp Pendleton's vegetation dynamics in 1978 and published my first paper on the economics of remote sensing.

In August of that same year, I accepted a job offer to become the Navy's first research ecologist from one of my Ecographic clients, the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL), Port Hueneme, CA. I was thrilled with the concept of a regular paycheck and the potential attached with being the first research ecologist tasked to investigate remote sensing and GIS (I knew what to call these systems by now) for land use management and environmental protection on 1.3 million acres of military land.

My penchant for night school while working full time garnered another degree in engineering from the University of Southern California, immediately followed by entering the brand new UCSB doctoral program in geography through the cajoling of Jack Estes. In 1992, I was fortunate to be awarded a one-year fellowship by the Navy to complete my course requirements.

A wonderful opportunity arose as the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., requested assistance for a computerized system for the land use management needs of its base facilities. Environmental regulations were placing extreme pressure on the USMC's ability to administer the land management activities for training and support. As principal investigator of the Land Use Management System (LUMS) project, I put together a team of scientists that included Jack Estes, Jeff Star, Todd Streich, Ralph Brown, and others to investigate the best automated approaches to the Marine Corps requirements. This project led to the thorough evaluation/bench testing of the leading computer aided drafting (CAD) and GIS vendor products. ESRI's products were determined the best at the time and thereby developed a deep and lasting relationship with the vector GIS world and Jack Dangermond's young team at Redlands, CA. The Camp Lejeune LUMS remains one of the best engineered GIS around the country to this day.

While at NCEL I was involved with many triservice meetings and workshops, many visits to various military installations, and intra-federal communications. I served on the Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee on Digital Cartography, the forerunner of today's Federal Geographic Data Committee. I compared notes with colleagues in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It seemed quite natural to friends and colleagues that I transferred jobs, and I accepted the challenge of leading the new GIS research program, which had been added to the remote sensing program, at the EPA's Environmental Monitoring Systems Laboratory in Las Vegas in 1984. This tour of government duty led to the first large-scale GIS research on an active Superfund site at San Gabriel, CA. ESRI was subcontracted for this research that yielded many firsts. ESRI's GRID module was used to link a GIS database to a groundwater model running a temporally reversed trajectory. The Superfund remedial contractor, CH2MHILL, monitored our progress and decided to make GIS the operational site investigation tool before we completed the research. This was indeed a success. During my tenure with the agency, I was able to visit with all ten of the EPA regions and discuss the role of GIS and remote sensing with many EPA scientists and contractors in addressing the nation's environmental problems.

It is one thing to design GIS research projects; it is quite another to build and design an operational system. When the opportunity arose to lead the Clark County, NV, GIS program in the late 1980s I jumped at the opportunity to "do it right." Located in Las Vegas, the Clark County GIS program has become a national example based on carefully engineered steps with dedicated cooperation of all consortium members and sufficient financial backing. With the luxury of designing and implementing a multimillion dollar GIS with a team of highly motivated and creative people, the Clark County GIS has become a recognized success. The enthusiasm and professionalism of Clark County soon combined with that of the Washoe County GIS teams, and Nevada's annual GIS conferences were born. As the state's GIS chairman, I was also involved in USGS A-16 planning efforts with my colleagues, such as Nancy Tosta, from California, and others from Montana, Idaho, and Arizona. During this time I was also elected to the AM/FM International Board of Directors, thereby balancing my environmental experiences with those of the utilities and engineering world. All my Ph.D. work paled in comparison to the knowledge I gained as the operational leader of the Nevada and Clark County programs.

As projects there became operational, I began to search for new challenges, leaving behind the important task of maintaining a major municipal GIS to a team of talented and capable friends and professionals. Through the wisdom of my wife, I landed at UMBC where a new Laboratory for Spatial Analysis had just been assembled by Tom Millette. Tom's legacy provided me with the materials necessary to build a regional GIS and remote sensing research center that currently provides multilevel support for local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), county, state, and federal agencies. Our laboratory has created the Baltimore-Washington Regional Collaboratory, sponsored by NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, that operates via the Internet to link up and foster spatial data usage by a rapidly growing constituency of local, regional, and global users. It has been, in part, the experiences with this growing constituency in combination with the continued student education process that kept me focused on this history book project.

As this book neared completion, I was contacted by professor David Mark of SUNY Buffalo who had initiated the GIS History Project from the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis' (NCGIA's) Research Initiative 19, with his colleagues Nick Chrisman, Andrew Frank, and John Pickles. Research Initiative 19, "GIS and Society: The Social Implications of How People, Space, and Environment Are Represented in GIS," recognized the importance of establishing an authoritative history of GIS to develop and maintain related materials. This present book has provided important impetus and foundation materials for the NCGIA project. The Library of Congress is also coordinating with this author and others to begin collecting GIS gray literature from throughout the industry and academia. Readers are encouraged to contact professor Mark or this author to help contribute resource materials to fill in the knowledge gaps on the history of GIS.

The path that I traveled over the past couple of decades has provided me with a wonderful education and the delightful experience of meeting and working with many fine individuals involved in the spatial sciences and technology. It is my hope that through the collective writings in this book, the reader will become acquainted with the rich and interesting combination of people and projects that helped to bring GIS technology to the forefront of many of our disciplines.

As an addendum to this book, I should like to point out that more than one form of English is used by the authors. Readers will see British English-used in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia-as well as the language (especially spelling) of the United States. We have adhered to the usage of the authors.

Tim Foresman

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