The geospatial community lost an important member in February, Roger Tomlinson, also known as the Father of GIS. Roger was a geographer and researcher that created the first computerized Geographic Information System while working for the Canadian government.
In the 1960s, Roger dared to develop digital solutions to the time consuming and laborious process of collecting and synthesizing data for use in spatial analysis. This empowered his team to more quickly make important decisions on land use and resource allocation, a vital role for Canada’s Department of Forestry and Rural Development. Even though his original digital map making methods would be considered archaic compared to today’s standards, Roger initiated the process to innovate computerized map making. The methods he developed have been documented in the film Data for Decision which explores the utility of the first computerized GIS.
Additionally, Roger’s book, Thinking about GIS, reaffirms the fact that geospatial analysis should be considered carefully from the start on any project and should never be an afterthought. He also argues that GIS and spatial analysis cannot be defined as a single software product or tool. It is a holistic approach to data management and business processes. It is a comprehensive process which asks important questions to quality data in order to make better decisions.
I had the pleasure to meet Roger in 2009 and his passion for problem solving resonate with me today. His contributions to the geography community can not be overstated and have helped to craft an industry that prides itself in solving complex and important problems in our world.
I hope you will join us for a GeoPhilly screening of archival films featuring Roger’s Data for Decision produced by the National Film Board of Canada and many other films about geography and map making. You can RSVP for this Philly Tech Week event on the GeoPhilly event page.