GIS History from a UK/ European Perspective

On October 29, 2010, in GIS, by James Cheshire

Jack Dangermond and ESRI are sponsoring a survey of some early GIS pioneers, hoping to discover how much material they still hold on the early history of GIS and with a view to establish an archive that will capture this important legacy.  Somewhat indirectly, I have been asked if I know of anything of this nature happening in UK and if I can find materials (papers, correspondence, photos, card stacks, programs—anything “interesting”!) that would be appropriate for a history of GIS archive. A particular interest might be in early work in geographical computing and programming.

My own interest arises from the very partial picture of GIS history painted in Tim Foresman’s book that virtually ignored all the UK and European work that was going on at the same time but that, by and large, did not make it into commercial success. I think it important that this work does not get air-brushed out of any record that might in future be thought of as definitive.

So, does anyone in the group have materials that could be contributed to an archive? In no special order I’d be interested in things like John Tarrant’s list s of geographic computer programs, anything to do with Tom Waugh’s incredibly forward looking GIMMS system, the BBC Domesday project, and Birkbeck’s acquisition of Arc/INFO.

Please email me if you have any such material so that I can compile a list. I am afraid that retirement and several office moves mean that, other than a valued copy of Dick Baxter’s book, I seem to have lost much of my own records.

Dave Unwin

david.unwin at

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