Roger Tomlinson, Geographer

By Jack Dangermond

Dr. Roger Tomlinson (Photo: Tomlinson Associates.)

Dr. Roger Tomlinson (Photo: Tomlinson Associates.)

It is with great sadness that I relay the sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Roger Tomlinson, on February 9, 2014, at the age of 80.

Roger was above all else a geographer and was always proud to say that. He loved GIS, the field that he invented, and was so pleased to come to Esri and help us in thinking through difficult problems. He had a passion for staying current with the most recent technologies and always had insights that none of the rest of us had. He also loved attending the annual Esri User Conference and the opportunity to both see and acknowledge the great work of GIS professionals from around the world. He always said that giving out the Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Awards was his favorite day of the year.

Roger both created and dignified our field with his strong yet graceful spirit and insight. He invariably knew what was important. His vision of first thinking about and then designing and building practical systems that created meaningful information products will be part of his legacy.

With his passing, a beautiful and bright light has gone out in the world. Nevertheless, I know that his spirit and passion will live on in all of us.

He was my friend. I will miss him greatly. And his spirit will be missed by all of us.

Dr. Roger Tomlinson

Dr. Roger Tomlinson

Dr. Roger F. Tomlinson (1933–2014)

"The Father of GIS"

It was Dr. Roger F. Tomlinson who first coined the term geographic information system (GIS). He created the first computerized geographic information system in the 1960s while working for the Canadian government—a geographic database still used today by municipalities across Canada for land planning. Born in England, he settled in Canada after military service and attending university, where his work in geomorphology led to applying computerized methods for handling map information. Tomlinson has had a distinguished career as a pioneer in GIS and developed Tomlinson Associates Ltd., which provides geographic consulting services. For 12 years, he was chairman of the International Geographical Union GIS Commission. He was also president of the Canadian Association of Geographers and most recently was recipient of the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Medal, awarded only once before by the National Geographic Society. Tomlinson was also the author of Thinking About GIS: Geographic Information System Planning for Managers, one of the most widely read books on the subject.

 
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