Geography lovers and enthusiasts, gather around and let’s celebrate the amazing technology of Geographic Information Systems on GIS Day, on November 20 this year. This is an annual holiday celebrated on the third Wednesday of November, or the Wednesday within Geography Awareness Week. GIS is said to be the technology that answers the question of “where?” It is a scientific framework for capturing, analyzing, and visualizing location data to help make better decisions. For example, GIS can predict areas of flooding. Whether you’re a geography newbie or master cartographer, you can celebrate the brilliant technology of GIS, its contributions to the real world, and your own GIS accomplishments on GIS Day every year. Help others learn more about geography and discover GIS.
History of GIS Day
The first-ever GIS Day was held on November 19, 1999, during the Geography Awareness Week held during the same year. Geography Awareness Week has been held every November since 1987 and it is during this week that GIS day typically occurs.
GIS Day was famously inspired by American activist and lawyer, Ralph Nader, who believed it would be a great way for people, especially those in the grassroots, to learn about geography and GIS technology.
While GIS Day was first bought up by Ralph Nader, he wasn’t the one who put it into action. The first GIS Day was organized by the National Geographic Society (NatGeo) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Apart from NatGeo and AAG, some of the original sponsors of GIS Day included the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, United States Geological Survey, Hewlett-Packard, and spatial analytics leader, Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute).
Today, GIS Day is celebrated by over 100,000 people around the world. The events of the day provide international recognition and awareness of GIS technology and the ways its real-world applications are making a difference in society. People can explore “The Living Atlas;” the highest spatial resolution ecological land unit map the world has ever seen.
GIS was first developed in 1962 by Dr. Roger Tomlinson, who introduced geographic information systems to the Canada Land Inventory. Roger is quoted as saying “The early days of GIS were very lonely. No one knew what it meant. My work has been missionary work of the hardest kind.”
Well, GIS certainly isn’t lonely today, thanks to the efforts of many pioneers such as Dr. Roger Tomlinson.
GIS Day timeline
Dr. Roger Tomlinson’s work with Canada Land Inventory in 1962 is seen as the dawn of GIS.
The earliest published reference to GIS is by two scholars at the University of Illinois.
The launching of the first Landsat satellite launches the start of continuous earth monitoring.
The street view program with panoramic street-level imagery for mobile devices is rolled out in the U.S.
GIS Day FAQs
What is GIS Week?
GIS week is a series of week-long events organized to celebrate GIS technology and its contributions to the world. It is often celebrated during Geography Awareness Week, which falls on the third week in November every year.
Who is known as the Father of GIS?
Dr. Roger Tomlinson, the pioneer geographer who developed GIS for the Canada Land Inventory, is popularly recognized and referred to as “the father of GIS” all around the world.
What was the First GIS?
The first-ever computerized GIS in the world was created in 1963 as a result of Dr. Roger Tomlinson’s visionary work to plan and develop the Canada Geographic Information System.
How to Celebrate GIS Day
Spread the word
GIS Day is the perfect day to spread the gospel of GIS technology and its life-changing real-world applications to other people around the world. You can give a lecture or presentation about GIS, share your work with your family, host a GIS Day event, and write a blog, or even a song, about the GIS technology that you love so much.
For the newbies, geocaching is a scavenger hunt-style game you can play using a GPS receiver. Go on an adventure tracking down hidden items at obscure spots. Bring out your inner Lara Croft and go treasure hunting on GIS Day.
Join a GIS Story Map competition
On GIS Day, you can be a storyteller. Just submit a GIS Story Map to any of the StoryMap competitions around the world, such as the ArcGIS StoryMaps Competition for Sustainable Development Goals.
5 Fun Facts About GIS
It was first used in 1832
Before Dr. Roger Tomlinson’s popular work with GIS in 1962, Charles Picquet used spatial analysis, in the first documented use of GIS, to visually track the cholera outbreak in Paris.
It has saved lives
A physician, John Snow discovered that cholera was spread through water by using Picquet’s method to track cholera cases in London and develop a hypothesis about the disease.
The first satellite image was taken by the U.S.
On August 14, 1959, the United States of America took the first-ever satellite image in the world. It was an image of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.
It brought us Blue Marble
The infamous Blue Marble is one of the most reproduced images in history — a picture of the Earth that was taken by the Apollo 17 crew on December 7, 1962.
It’s not just for Earth
GIS isn’t just used to observe the Earth, this technology has also been used to map out the surface of Mars, which paved the way for the first rovers to land on the red planet.
Why We Love GIS Day
More people need to be involved with GIS
GIS technology is amazing and yet too few people know about or are interested in it. GIS Day presents a perfect opportunity to get more people interested in GIS and perhaps inspire the next generation of GIS users and developers.
We need to celebrate our GIS legends
GIS Day is the perfect day to shine a light on the achievements of GIS warriors both past and present. You can share the works of some GIS legends or give a well-deserved brag about your own accomplishments using GIS technology.
GIS takes treasure hunts a step further
It’s not geeky to admit it — treasure hunts are awesome. We love GIS Day because GIS technology takes traditional maps a step further and reveals previously unknown truths about the world. We can find obscure places and discover hidden truths by using GIS. Talk about a treasure hunt.
GIS Day dates