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Charting the Unknown takes readers back more than four decades to the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis where a variety if professionals converged to rethink thematic mapping, spatial analysis, and what we now call GIS. The book includes a CD that contains interviews with important figures at the Harvard Laboratory, three movies showing animated, visualization, and scanned copies of Context publications (from 1968 to 1983) describing research-related ...
Charting the Unknown takes readers back more than four decades to the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis where a variety if professionals converged to rethink thematic mapping, spatial analysis, and what we now call GIS. The book includes a CD that contains interviews with important figures at the Harvard Laboratory, three movies showing animated, visualization, and scanned copies of Context publications (from 1968 to 1983) describing research-related activities at the Lab.
|1||Founding the laboratory for computer graphics||1|
|2||SYMAP : packaging thematic maps||19|
|6||Decline and rebound||89|
|7||On the topological path||103|
|10||Crisis of direction||161|
|11||A modest continuation||171|
Posted August 18, 2006
Nick Chrisman has preformed an important service for the geospatial community with this book. It is a very compelling story of early days of the development of GIS and computer cartography. This is the story of the Harvard Lab but Nick makes it abundantly clear that the events at the Harvard Lab were not the only things going on with computers and maps at the time. He gives credit where credit is due and does a good job of giving the impression of the intellectual ferment of the times, with important ideas and insights coming many people, from freshman to senior scientists. It must have been wonderful to have been a part of such an event/place/process. I hope that this book is widely read by the GIS community, but I think it also is an important addition to the literature of the history of science and technology. The story of the decline and end of the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis provides insight into campus politics and the debate over the role of a university in commercialization of intellectual property.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2006
This book reconstructs the time period between 1965 and 1991 and recaptures what it was like to be a part of the collection of researchers, programmers, secretaries, students, and artists, who played a part in creating what is now called Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is really the story of architect Howard Fisher who, while at Northwestern University, conceived of the idea of using digital computers for mapping in the graphics domain of software programming. It presumes to be about the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis, but more importantly it is about the people who populated the Laboratory. The author not only identified and connected the dots...he identified thousands of additional dots representing people and events and connected all of these to each other and to the major dots!! This obviously was a system project to synthesize all of the known elements during 1965-1991.... This is an authentic, highly accurate, and exquisitely analytical historical account of the evolution of the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis which was located organizationally in the Graduate School of Design and incorporated architecture and community planning. The author has devoted considerable time and effort to rummage through numerous boxes and files of documents, videos and records, and to conduct many interviews with the individuals to verify the elements of his story. One can conclude that the volume is based on fact and has not relied simply on human memory and anecdotal evidence.... Chapter 1 follows Howard Fisher as he assembled the coalition of alliances that brought the Laboratory into being in 1965. It provides some context for other university centers of innovation where computer mapping and geographic information systems were under construction in the same period.... Chapter 2 describes the development of SYMAP (SYnagraphic MAPping), the software that served as the primary focus for Fisher's efforts. By 1970 Jack Dangermond, a graduate student of landscaping architecture, had utilized SYMAP to produce a number of regional air pollution studies. This work was to lead later to his creation of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) which was eventually destined to become a leader in GIS..... Chapter 3 examines the efforts of Laboratory staff to use computer tools for environmental planning, leading away from SYMAP toward a set of grid-based analytical software. These efforts included examining environmental planning concepts developed at other universities including the University of Wisconsin (Phillip Lewis) and Pennsylvania State University (Ian McHarg). McHarg's text, 'Design With Nature' was considered as one of the foundations of subsequent GIS practice (Note: The reviewer met Professor McHarg later in 1983 when he was invited to Sedona, Arizona, for discussions on community planning for the proposed City, and was aware at that time of his contributions at the Harvard Laboratory.). An outgrowth of the Delmarva Project (Carl Steinitz) was GRID (David Sinton) made available by 1969 this software also used FORTRAN subroutines and eventually led to IMGRID to be followed by MAP (Map Analysis Package). One must keep in mind that computer systems were being modified and expanded affording the researchers at Harvard opportunities to redesign these experimental software programs to fit into the new operating system configurations.... Chapter 4 covers the theoretical realms of spatial analysis developed under the leadership of William Warntz. Considerable attention is given to theoretical geography as it evolved at the Laboratory, including the fact that the University had years earlier abolished the Department of Geography! Geography had returned to Harvard with a mathematical 'division of sets' underpinning called The Sandwich Theorem. In 1968 GRASP (Generation of Random Access Site Plans) was created by Eric Teicholz depictinWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.