Nat Geo awards Alexander Graham Bell Medals to GIS pioneers

The National Geographic Society awarded Alexander Graham Bell Medals yesterday to two visionary geographers and geographic information systems (GIS) pioneers–Dr. Roger Tomlinson, known as “the father of GIS,” and Jack Dangermond, a trailblazer in spatial analysis methods, the Society said in a news release.

“The Alexander Graham Bell Medal, named for the inventor and the second president of the National Geographic Society, is awarded for extraordinary achievement in geographic research.

“Bell’s great-grandson, National Geographic Society Chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor, presented the medals to Tomlinson and Dangermond at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) International User Conference in San Diego,” the release said.


Jack Dangermond (left) with Gil Grosvenor at the award ceremony.

Photo by Eric Laycock / ESRI


Roger Tomlinson with the Alexander Graham Bell Medal. 

Photo by Eric Laycock / ESRI

“Roger and Jack have dedicated their lives to advancing the science of GIS, transforming the field of geography and bringing the use of geographic information to virtually every field of human endeavor and every corner of the globe,” Grosvenor said.

National Geographic’s Alexander Graham Bell Medal has only been awarded once before. Bradford and Barbara Washburn, renowned explorers, mountaineers and mapmakers, received it in 1980 for their contributions to geography and cartography.

Roger Tomlinson


Photo courtesy of Roger Tomlinson

British-born Tomlinson, now of Ottawa, Canada, conceived and developed GIS in the 1960s for use by the Canada Land Inventory. His pioneering work changed the face of geography as a discipline. Governments and scientists around the world have turned to him to better understand the environment and changing patterns of land use, and to better manage urban development and the use of natural resources.

Tomlinson’s contributions include chairmanship of the International Geographic Union’s GIS Commission for 12 years, where he pioneered the concepts of worldwide geographical data availability. He is a past president of the Canadian Association of Geographers and a recipient of its rare Award for Service to the Profession. The Association of American Geographers in the United States awarded him the James R. Anderson Medal of Honor for Applied Geography in 1995. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and winner of its prestigious Murchison Award for the Development of Geographic Information Systems. In 1996 he was awarded the GIS World Lifetime Achievement Award for a lifetime of work with GIS, and he was the first recipient of the ESRI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He was awarded the Order of Canada, that country’s highest civilian honor, in 2004.

Tomlinson is the principal of Tomlinson Associates, Ltd., Consulting Geographers, which was established in 1977 in Ottawa.

Jack Dangermond


Photo © 2009 ESRI

A landscape architect by training, Dangermond, president of ESRI, is one of the founding fathers of GIS technology and is considered to be one of the most influential people in GIS. For more than 40 years he has been an outspoken proponent of GIS as one of the most promising decision-making tools for urban, regional, environmental and global problems. ESRI, which he and his wife founded in 1969, has the largest GIS software install base in the world, with over 1 million users in more than 300,000 organization representing business, government, NGOs and academia. The company, headquartered in Redlands, Calif., is known internationally for GIS software development, training and services.

Dangermond has been a leader and visionary in the field, promoting GIS technology beyond that of his own company. He has delivered keynote addresses at international conferences, published hundreds of papers and given thousands of presentations. His passion for GIS and its application to solving problems, particularly for the causes of the environment and the less empowered in society, is well known throughout the industry.

He has been awarded 10 honorary doctorates and received a number of awards, including the Carl Mannerfelt Medal from the International Cartographic Association in 2008, the Public-Private Partnership Award from the National Governors Association in 2009 and the Patron’s Medal from the Royal Geographical Society in June 2010.

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn