GIS has evolved from a concept to a science. The phenomenal evolution of GIS from a crude tool to a modern, powerful platform for understanding and planning our world is marked by several key milestones. The field of geographic information systems (GIS) started in the 1960s as computers and early concepts of quantitative and computational geography emerged.
The history of GIS all started in 1854 when Cholera hit the city of London, England. British physician John Snow began mapping outbreak locations, roads, property boundaries, and water lines. John Snow’s Cholera map was a major event connecting geography and public health safety. Not only was this the beginning of the spatial analysis, but it also marked the start of a whole field of study: Epidemiology – the study of the spread of disease.
Evolution in 1960
Computer mapping was still in the dark, it hasn’t evolved, all mapping was done on paper or sieve mapping up until 1960. In 1960, Roger Tomlinson’s who is known to be the father of GIS; through his pioneering work to initiate, plan, and develop the Canada Geographic Information System which resulted in the first computerized GIS in the world in 1963.
The Canadian government had commissioned Tomlinson to create a manageable inventory of its natural resources. He envisioned using computers to merge natural resource data from all provinces. He created the design for automated computing to store and process large amounts of data, which enabled Canada to begin its national land-use management program. He also gave GIS its name.
Evolution in 1965
By 1965, while at Northwestern University in 1964, Howard Fisher created one of the first computer mapping software programs known as SYMAP. In 1965, he established the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics. While some of the first computer map-making software was created and refined at the Lab, it also became a research centre for spatial analysis and visualization. Many of the earlier concepts for GIS and its applications were conceived at the Lab by a talented collection of geographers, planners, computer scientists, and others from many fields.
Between 1960-1965, Map graphics were outputs using line printers, advances in data storage was with mainframe computers and recording coordinates as data input.
Evolution in 1981
By 1981 GIS goes commercial, as computing became more powerful, Esri (founded in 1969, One of the biggest consulting firm known for computer mapping and spatial analysis to help land-use planners and land-resource managers make informed decisions) improved its software tools. Working on projects that solved real-world problems led the company to innovate and develop robust GIS tools and approaches that could be broadly used. Esri’s work gained recognition from the academic community as a new way of doing spatial analysis and planning. Esri developed ARC/INFO—the first commercial GIS product. The technology was released in 1981 and began the evolution of Esri into a software company.
Evolution -TILL DATE
Up until now, users are starting to adopt GIS technology in different ways. Classrooms, businesses, governments around the world are starting to harness digital mapping and analysis, Companies hesitated to adopt GIS software, Software which was able to handle both vector and raster data.
We are gradually entering an era of open source GIS software and the importance of spatial analysis for decision-making was becoming recognized. More light is shinning on QGIS than ever before. Software companies like Esri provide solutions to practically any spatial problem that exists today.