Towards the Invention of Geographic Information Systems and Science

November 13, 2019

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Science (GIScience) have come a long way since the beginning days of the 1960s. The goal then and still the same today is to collect and organize data thematically by location and time, analyze that data using cartographic and modeling processes, and use the resulting information and knowledge for evidence-based planning and decision-making.

Situated in the eye of the storm as one of the pioneers of GIS was Dr. Thomas K. Poiker. He is well-known for the Douglas–Peucker line simplification algorithm that is commonplace in many of the standard GIS software tools we use today. Dr. Poiker completed his PhD in 1967 at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and immediately started his academic career at SFU being jointly appointed in Geography and Computer Science where his research focused on Computer Geography, Geography of Education and Theoretical Economic Geography.

Dr. Poiker is now comfortably retired and two of our GIScience Faculty members recently caught up with him to reflect on the early years of GIS, receive books from his GIS collection, and to look ahead at the exciting opportunities that GIS and GIScience has to offer. As we celebrate GIS Day on 13th November 2019 it is only fitting that we remember the efforts of GIS pioneers such as Dr. Poiker on whose shoulders we stand firmly today.