Geographic Information Systems and Science / Edition 3

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The Third Edition of this bestselling textbook has been fully revised and updated to include the latest developments in the field and still retains its accessible format to appeal to a broad range of students.

Now divided into five clear sections the book investigates the unique, complex and difficult problems that are posed by geographic information and together they build into a holistic understanding of the key principles of GIS.

This is the most current, authoritative and comprehensive treatment of the field, that goes from fundamental principles to the big picture of:

  • GIS and the New World Order
  • security, health and well-being
  • digital differentiation in GIS consumption
  • the core organizing role of GIS in Geography
  • the greening of GIS
  • grand challenges of GIScience
  • science and explanation

Key features:

  • Four-colour throughout
  • Associated website with free online resources
  • Teacher’s manual available for lecturers
  • A complete learning resource, with accompanying instructor links, free online lab resources and personal syllabi
  • Includes learning objectives and review boxes throughout each chapter

New in this edition:

  • Completely revised with a new five part structure: Foundations; Principles; Techniques; Analysis; Management and Policy
  • All new personality boxes of current GIS practitioners
  • New chapters on Distributed GIS, Map Production, Geovisualization, Modeling, and Managing GIS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470721445
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 184,537
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents





1 Introduction.

Chapter 1: Systems, Science, and Study.

Chapter 2: A Gallery of Applications.

2 Principles.

Chapter 3: Representing Geography.

Chapter 4: The Nature of Geographic Data.

Chapter 5: Georeferencing.

Chapter 6:  Uncertainty.

3 Techniques.

Chapter 7: GIS Software.

Chapter 8: Geographic Data Modeling.

Chapter 9: GIS Data Collection.

Chapter 10: Creating and Maintaining Geographic Databases.

Chapter 11: The GeoWeb.

4 Analysis.

Chapter 12: Cartography and Map Production.

Chapter 13: Geovisualization.

Chapter 14: Spatial Data Analysis.

Chapter 15: Spatial Analysis and Inference.

Chapter 16: Spatial Modeling with GIS.

5 Management and Policy

Chapter 17: Managing GIS.

Chapter 18: Operating Safely with GIS.

Chapter 19: GIS Partnerships.

Chapter 20: Epilogue: GIS&S in the Service of Humanity.


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First Chapter


Note: The Figures and/or Tables mentioned in this chapter do not appear on the web.


There are perhaps 100 other books on geographic information systems (GIS) now on the world market. To the best of our knowledge, there is no other one like ours. One reason for that is that most treat GIS as a largely technical issue. This is reflected in the skills of existing GIS staff and the junior and middle level jobs they occupy. But our philosophy differs more profoundly than simply believing that there is too much emphasis on the technology. We see GIS as providing a gateway to science and problem-solving. Our philosophy is summarized below.


The basic operations of GIS provide secure and established foundations for analysis, although the technology is still evolving rapidly (especially in relation to the Internet, its likely successors, and spin-offs). Better technology will remain a necessary condition for achievement of cheaper, faster GIS and better interoperability -- but it is far from a sufficient condition for successful application of such systems.

GIS is fundamentally an applications-led technology, yet science underpins successful applications. Effective use of such systems is impossible if they are simply seen as black boxes producing magic. Understanding the imprecision and uncertainty of our representations of the world, and the consequences of our operations on them, is essential for everything except the most trivial use of GIS. Empirical analysis of the real world can be a messy and analytically inconvenient business and so the science ofreal-world application is the difficult kind - it can rarely refer to apparently universal truths, such as the laws of gravity. Rather it is one founded on a search for understanding and predictive power in a world where human factors interact with those relating to the physical environment. Social science and natural science are part of what we embrace. In addition, ethics and esthetics -- the basis of the most effective graphic displays -- can also play an important role.

Geographic information is central to the practicality of GIS. If it does not exist, it is expensive to collect, edit, or update. If it does exist, it cuts costs and time -- assuming it is fit for purpose, or good enough for the particular task in hand. It underpins the rapid growth of trading in geographic information (g-commerce). It provides possibilities not only for local business but also for entering new markets or for forging new relationships with other organizations. But it is a foolish individual who sees it only as a commodity like baked beans or shaving foam. Its value relies upon its coverage and on the strengths of its representation of diversity, on its truth within a constrained definition of that word, and on its availability.

Few of us are hermits. The way in which geographic information is created and it and GIS are exploited affects us as citizens, as owners of enterprises, and as employees. It has increasingly been argued that GIS is only a part -- albeit a part growing in importance and size -- of the Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) industry. That is a limited perception, typical of the ICT supply-side industry which tends to see itself as the sole progenitor of change in the world (wrongly). It is actually much more sensible to take a balanced demand-and supply-side perspective: GIS and geographic information can and do underpin many operations of many organizations, but how GIS works in detail differs between different cultures. The fact that few Japanese streets have names creates a very different navigation problem there compared with North America. Such underpinning is true whether the organizations are in the private or public sectors. Seen from this perspective, management of GIS facilities is crucial to the success of these organizations -- businesses as we term them later. The management of the organizations using our tools, information, knowledge, skills, and commitment is therefore what will ensure the ultimate local -- and hence global -- success of GIS. For this reason we devote an entire section to management issues. But in so doing we go far beyond how to choose, install, and run a GIS. That is only one part of the enterprise. We try to show how to use GIS and geographic information to contribute to the business success of your organization, and have it recognized as doing just that. To achieve that, you need to know what drives organizations and how they operate in reality in their business environment. You need to know something about assets, risks, and constraints on actions -- and how to avoid the last two and nurture the first. And you need to be exposed -- for that is reality -- to the inter-dependencies in any organization and the trade-offs in decision-making.

Success with GIS only comes from understanding and familiarity with science, technology, people, and institutions. Expertise in one area is not enough.


As a team, we have already produced one very different book -- the second edition of the "Big Book" of GIS. This reference work on GIS (Longley et al 1999) contains 72 chapters written by many of the best GIS people in the world. It was designed for those who were already very familiar with GIS, taking them to the frontiers of research and practice across a huge range of topics. It was not designed as a book for those being introduced to the subject.

This one is. We have in mind those studying at an intermediate stage in the huge range of undergraduate courses that are available throughout the world. The coupling of the book to the second edition of the Big Book (and also its predecessor, Maguire et al 1991) also makes it of use to postgraduates in GIS. Such users might desire an up-to-date overview of GIS to locate their own particular endeavors, or (particularly if their previous experience lies outside the mainstream geographic sciences) a fast track to get up-to-speed with the range of principles, techniques, and practice issues that govern real-world application. We have also directed it towards the busy professional, who has many demands on his or her time but who has heard something of this new wonder and needs to gain familiarity with the subject in a no-nonsense way.

This is not just a textbook for mechanics. There are plenty of those already (some of them good). The market for GIS is huge yet fast-growing and most of the new users do not consider themselves principally to be technicians. We are convinced of the need for high-level understanding and so our book deals with ideas and concepts -- but also with actions. In geographic science, for instance, you need to be aware of the complexities of interactions between people and the environment. In management, you cannot become competent without practice, informed by a wide range of knowledge about issues which might impact your actions. Success in management -- and in GIS more generally -- often comes from dealing with people, not machines. We seek to prepare you for such situations.

Because of the rapid annual growth rates of GIS, there are far more people new to it than there are existing experts. The two groups need different material.


As the title implies, this is a book about geographic information systems, the practice of science in general, and the principles of geographic information science (GIScience) in particular. But it is even more than that. It is a deliberate attempt -- an early one -- to recognize and exploit the fact that information and communications technologies are helping to change the world of learning, as well as business, government, and science. ICT is not really about making the old ways better. In the world of learning, it offers a genuinely different way, and one which has many advantages and some disadvantages.

For this reason, we start off by talking about the purpose of this book -- to make you more capable of doing certain desirable things. This ability will come from a greater understanding of the factors involved, expertise in use of the tools at your disposal, recognition of the laws of unintended consequences, and adherence to the set of values (e.g. professional integrity) by which you operate. We follow this up with an overview of the kinds of problems with which GIS and GIScience can help. First, however, we must recognize the impacts of technology and other factors on the way we learn and the ways in which we seek to organize and change the world.

The general model of education -- at university level and during in-work training -- is changing. There are two interrelated reasons for this. The first is that injections of knowledge are no longer the cornerstone of education. The second is that businesses are becoming a serious player in the most advanced levels of education, long the preserve of state or private universities -- and some universities are increasingly acting like businesses in how they run their courses.

The transfer of knowledge, suitably codified and fitted within widely accepted conceptual models, was the basis of the old education. That transfer from teachers to students was part of an implicit contract subscribed to by both the teacher and those taught. Two changes of great importance have occurred. The first is that higher education in most countries has gone from being the preserve of the few to the right of the many. When we authors went to university, for instance, we were part of only 5--10% of people who experienced such education; now the average in the countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is around 30% and it is over 50% in the USA. Many of these students are also working part-time as well as studying and have different requirements from those full-timers of the past. The second change is that a rapidly growing amount of information is readily available via the Internet, ever more cheaply and easily. In these circumstances, the value added by universities is to ensure that those being educated have skills of information retrieval, sifting, assessment, and analysis, plus the ability to ferment knowledge from reliable information and apply it to good effect. Thus we are moving rapidly from an era where the creation and inculcation of knowledge was often the primary focus (frequently through traditional but sometimes ineffectual methods like the formal lecture) to one where learning and knowing how to learn, all achieved between other pressing concerns, are the prime drivers.

Information -- and sometimes evidence and knowledge -- are increasingly available on the Internet. Where to find information, how to analyze it, and how to assess its quality are now more important than memorizing it.

This does not mean that there is only one way of learning or that conversing with a computer is the only way to achieve educational enlightenment. We know that different people have different learning abilities and prefer different learning styles. Whilst some students rate lectures very highly, those who are not familiar with extracting meaning from them often feel alienated. Much the same occurs in some books written in an old academic style. Some research has shown computer-based learning to be the least popular mode. But in a world where education and learning is a mass pursuit -- rather than one simply for intellectual elites -- the bulk of evidence suggests multiple, non-traditional approaches are more effective (Table 1). This requires a shift from didactic teaching to an active experience of learning through integrating knowledge bases and analyzing the results, all in the interests of solving particular problems yet gaining wider understanding of how to do such tasks better next time.

In a rapidly changing world, our learning also needs to be life-long. How best can we ensure this happens and is successful? To do this, we need to recognize that learning is also a social and cultural process, not just a cognitive one. This leads us to believe that distance-learning methods on their own are unlikely to be successful. It is self-evident that different approaches work best for different stages in education, as suggested in Table 1. We may debate the contents of any one cell in the matrix, but the benefits of tailoring the learning methodology to the task are certain.

There is no one right way to learn -- different approaches suit different people at different times and for different tasks.

Across the world the proportion of people attending universities is rising. The expenditure on high-level education is thus large and increasing. It is not surprising therefore that the private sector sees opportunities, not least because studies in various countries have revealed that there are major obstacles to the existing providers adapting to new ways of operating -- notably the inertia and complacency exhibited by many staff in existing universities. Add to this the recognition by manufacturers of sophisticated software products that education and training of their users is crucial to building up a cohort of skilled, successful (and loyal) customers. And finally, in a world where Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is required to keep people up-to-date, the opportunities for repeat business are great. The result is that the private sector sees education and learning as a golden opportunity. Manifestations of this range from the private University of Phoenix -- which commissions courseware from other suppliers, engages staff part-time, and makes great use of distance-learning methods -- to software vendors who run successful courses on their own software, preceded by courses on the principles. In GIS, a number of different approaches to distance learning and CPD have been taken by private and publicly funded bodies such as the UNIGIS consortium, ESRI in its Virtual Campus, and at Pennsylvania State University.

How does this book fit with the new learning paradigm?

This is not a traditional textbook because:

  • GISystems and GIScience do not lend them-selves to traditional classroom teaching. Only by a combination of approaches can such crucial matters as principles, technical issues, practice, management, ethics, and accountability be learned. Thus the book is complemented by a Web site and by a range of other online resources, including modules specially written to accompany the book.
  • It attempts for the first time to bring the principles and techniques of GIScience to those learning about GIS for the first time -- and as such represents a major new stage in the evolution of GIS.
  • The very nature of GIS as an underpinning technology in huge numbers of applications, spanning different fields of human endeavor, ensures that learning has to be tailored to individual or small-group needs.
  • We have recognized the need to be driven by real-world needs. Hence a variety of applications and case studies are threaded through the text.
  • We have linked our book to online learning resources throughout, notably the ESRI Virtual Campus.


Since this book is about GIScience, anything which changes the nature of science is relevant to us. The environment of GIScience is provided by GIS which has, since its inception in the 1960s, frequently been seen and used as a method of solving real-world problems. Thus any developments in problem-solving within business or government are also relevant to us and need to be reflected in the structure and contents of the book. What is happening more generally in business -- the largest employer in most countries -- is particularly crucial to us. As it turns out, there is something of a convergence between contemporary approaches to problem-solving in science, business, government, and society. This convergence and the (diminishing) tensions between these groups are now explored and the consequences for the book set out.

GIS, and Mode 1 and Mode 2 science

In recent years, the combined effect of technological and societal factors has begun to re-shape science. Much science has become multinational. Growing distrust of stereotypical scientists in white coats has led to demands for much greater openness and accountability. Again, of course, there is no unanimity about what is happening in detail but the general outline of the change is clear. It has been argued that there are two distinct attitudes to the creation and use of knowledge, which is the role of science. Mode 1 approaches still dominate the current scene and are manifested in subject-based universities. However, the business/government/academic convergence is manifested in a Mode 2 approach. Table 2 summarizes the characteristics of the two modes.

The public understanding of science and scientific understanding of the public are becoming key issues. Any method of enhancing communication between the two groups -- like GIS -is valuable.

Where does this book fit in? Geography is universal; all physical phenomena and many abstract ones demonstrate spatial differentiation. The differentiation is rarely (if ever) random. Patterns are frequently observable if viewed at appropriate levels of detail (though sometimes these can be spurious artefacts of the way we carry out our analyses). More than that, there is some generality about these geographical patterns. Tobler's First Law of Geography is presented in Chapter 5, and illustrates this neatly. On the face of it therefore, Geography is a Mode 1 type activity in seeking universal truth. In practice, that is often far from the case. The great bulk of GIS applications are about problem-solving in a particular context rather than in elucidating general theories or laws. There are several reasons why much Geography -- and GIS in particular -- has Mode 2 characteristics:

  • It is commonplace to have to work with both physical science and social and economic science factors (e.g. in choosing the siting of a nuclear waste plant). This rarely permits the formulation of universal laws but draws upon them.
  • Because of this, team working is the norm, with different members contributing different skills (and sometimes different value systems).
  • There is rarely a single set of objective criteria with which to measure success. Normally any GIS analyses and subsequent recommendations involve accommodating various trade-offs, each solution having advantages and disadvantages. Put another way, the success criteria are not universal -- the team will have their own means of judging success (e.g. achievement of a solution through rigorous application of certain methodologies and the garnering of adequate data matching the requirements of any statistical tests). But real estate developers, public officials, environmental scientists, non-governmental organizations, and lay citizens may have quite different success criteria.
  • GIS specialists are very likely to be working in different subject domains in successive jobs.
  • Publication of results is often manifested in forms other than papers in refereed journals (e.g. as part of reports, as maps, or as Internet Web sites).

Table 2. The characteristics of Mode 1 and Mode 2 approaches to science (after Hills 1999)

Mode 1
Mode 2
Subject, and publication specialization, and fragmentation of knowledge Holistic, not reductionist
Curiosity-driven, often blue-skies research usually within subject. Objectivity and disinterestedness Mission-oriented, not blue-skies research -- usually strategic or applied. Context-driven, not subject-driven. Service of practical interests involving subject values
Sets out to produce general laws or statements -- but sometimes fails Context-specific results -- results must be obtained
Impersonal attitudes, open publication, and open argument. Progress by conjecture and refutation Reflexive philosophy rather than absolute judgments
Sometimes (though less and less common) the work of a solitary scholar Team-work based, not an individual scholar
Leads to convergence, consistency, reliability, but also consolidation of establishment values Divergent, not convergent
Publications may be single-or multi-authored, homogeneous knowledge bases. Typically published in openly accessible, refereed scientific journals -- but often with substantial publication delay Multi-authored publications, heterogeneous knowledge bases. Some work not published if it provides competitive advantage, e.g., for exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights. Much use made of the Internet
Long-established scientific method, widely accepted within science community Reflects the world outside academia -- the world in which graduates work
Life-long vocation on part of researchers Professional teams, re-assembled on project basis

Given all of this, we should not pretend that we are always engaged in traditional Mode 1 science. GIS deals with everything from the universal laws of physics, through areas of statistical regularity, to the highly individual. And our results often have to be acceptable -- or at least defensible -- to different people with different experiences, different views, and (sometimes) different vested interests. That does not mean that we simply produce answers to order -- we have an ethical commitment to produce the best, most objective, and replicable results possible.

Working in GIS inevitably involves being in conflict with others at different times. Coping with this involves both scientific and personal skills.

Making governments work better with GIS

Governments still matter. Notwithstanding the growth of business into traditional areas of public provision of services like education, governments at national, state, and local levels have a big influence on the lives of citizens. Yet many governments under-achieve, even though they often have excellent staff. The reasons why this occurs include outdated organizational structures, cultures, and remits dating from much earlier times. Backward-looking organizations tend to look after their own interests (e.g. in terms of opening hours, service provision locations, and what information they require from their clients). They tend to be relatively self-contained, minimizing collaboration with other bodies. In addition, the nature of most governments is that politicians are appointed to run their own departments -- but the problems facing government as a whole are rarely capable of solution by a single vertically organized department. For example, reducing poverty in society has employment, educational, housing, social security, tax, and (possibly) health, and transport implications.

Inertia may prevail because there is little incentive (other than political pressure generated by elections) to improve. A focus on inputs (e.g. the budget-setting process is a key activity in most governmental years) rather than outcomes is quite common in government. And risk aversion, sometimes because over-seeing bodies will punish all failure even if a good risk assessment was carried out, is very frequent. Rarely in government is anyone praised or rewarded for succeeding, but punishment for failure is inevitable and often public. All this adds up to lower-than-feasible performance, unresponsiveness to elected politicians and citizens, and costly inefficiencies.

Minimizing these problems is non-trivial, but many governments across the world have begun to tackle them. The ways this has been done include:

  • Setting targets, publicizing these, and measuring achievement for different branches of government (which can be effective but tends to atomize government, minimizing interactions and fostering the shifting of problems to other people).
  • Creating matrix-like management structures across government and also rotating staff from one department to another to propagate best practice.
  • Empowering citizens with information about what the departments are setting out to achieve and the background to judge them, rewarding the departmental successes appropriately.
  • Trying to build integrated or "joined-up" government by common use of the same electronic forms and procedures and re-use of information wherever it exists, rather than collecting it and retaining it within silos in each department. In short, taking a corporate approach to information management and to management of the enterprise as a whole.

Where does GIS fit into the new approaches to government? It will be obvious that solving problems in this domain is not straightforward, not least because there are usually multiple objectives and infinite expectations of government. Typically in large and complex organizations like democratically elected governments, some policies may actually contradict and undermine others. Certainly the need to establish corporate approaches across government can easily undermine the local autonomy needed when someone is asked to solve a particular problem. But it is quite extraordinary how many of these problems can be eased by appropriate use of GIS. In particular, use of a common base set of information, including the topography and key datasets (environmental, socio-economic, financial statistics, etc.) can be effective in fostering integrated government. Use of a common GIS language and an ability to sew together datasets from many sources and assess them can be crucial -- in the late 1980s, the CORINE environmental GIS created for Europe demonstrated that different sampling and data creation algorithms ensured that the greatest rate of environmental change across that continent often occurred at country boundaries! More than that, empowering citizens is ever easier -- at least for those with access to computers -- through information provided over the Internet. Use of GIS can make a huge variety of information available in understandable form to the non-expert citizen. In addition, some risk assessments can be carried out effectively within a GIS and reported readily.

In summary, much of government is related to things happening or not happening in a given area. As a minimum its success requires consistent, relevant, and up-to-date information. In a world where more is expected for less, costs must be cut through reduction in staff time, although the political process ensures that multiple solutions to problems with many causes have to be evaluated and exposed. Given all this, it is no great surprise that GIS is increasingly widely used at all levels of government. GIScience may, however, seem irrelevant in an arena where improvements in routine decision-making and information exchange will make things better. In practice, the science is still central to good governance if only because it should help us to avoid capricious or even gerrymandering use of GIS.

Government "of the people, by the people, for the people" is made easier by the widespread use of GIS.

Meeting business needs with GIS

It seems self-evident that business is primarily driven by the bottom line. Sometimes this truly is entirely a short-term affair: stock prices rise and fall according to quarterly profitability in some industries. But other businesses act on a longer-term basis. For instance, and many other .com companies made no profits in their first few years of trading. Even beyond that, however, many businesses seek to operate in a way which is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and takes account of local priorities and issues. To do so is often good business: the reputation of a business for integrity, sensitivity, and fair dealing is hard won and influences potential customers, yet is easily lost. To abide by local laws and customs also reduces business risk. For these reasons, it is grossly simplistic to see firms as simple profit-maximizers. They too need information about business opportunities and risks and how these are geographically distributed. Yet they also need to know how to solve a particular problem at minimum cost but maximum efficacy. The latter does not just mean a narrow concern with efficiency and short-run profitability: it normally means being sensitive to the opinions of customers and government and building long-term relationships. One big part of this is achieved by bringing together the best available contemporary information and analyzing it using the best science. It is obvious that GIS is a superb vehicle to do this.

Making profits is a necessary condition for success in the private sector -- but not a sufficient one for long-term success. Use of GIS can help to evaluate alternatives, minimize business risk, share cost, and audit processes for regulators and citizens' groups.


In this preface we have tried to show that there is growing commonality between the concerns of business, government, and science. The examples in the book of problems tackled through GIS have been chosen deliberately to show this commonality, as well as the interplay between organizations and people from different sectors. Clearly the concerns and commonality will never totally coincide. But concerns with effectiveness, efficiency, bringing together information from disparate sources, acting within regulatory and ethical frameworks, and preserving a good reputation are all common at the meta-level. For this reason, this book combines the basics of GIS with the solving of problems which often have no single, ideal solution -- the world of business, government, and Mode 2 science.

There are few absolutes in our world. For instance, the distinction between Mode 1 and Mode 2 approaches can be exaggerated: much of "big science" is now a team-based endeavor, often inter-disciplinary and international in scope, rather than the activity of a lonely scholar in a traditional discipline. That said, the convergence noted above is mostly in relation to Mode 2 approaches to knowledge creation or science: the approaches in government and in business certainly resemble Mode 2 science rather more than the Mode 1 variety. The common characteristics are a search for good solutions within a particular context, achieved within available time and budget, and taking account of all available information (however imperfect) -- rather than seeking the truth, however long it takes, and rigid adherence to certain procedures. At the same time, there are many aspects of Mode 1 science -- the formulation of hypotheses to be tested, the need to be able to replicate and demonstrate results, plus an acceptance of the need to justify and debate results -- which remain essential. In this book therefore we have sought to bring in different strands of scientific approach and to be eclectic in dealing with both physical and social sciences. Throughout the book, and in its accompanying Web site and associated material, we have also tried to escape "silo" or stovepipe mentality in tackling real-world problems of relevance to governments, businesses, and the citizen alike, and to avoid being constrained by traditional disciplinary blinkers. We see our efforts as being to underpin the business activities of those working in the public and private sectors -- defining "business" in its widest sense.

In short, we have tried to create a book tuned to the way the world works now, to the way in which most of us increasingly operate as knowledge workers, and to our need to face complicated issues without ideal solutions in our daily lives. As we have said above, it is obvious that this book is an unusual enterprise and product. It has been written by a multinational partnership, drawing upon material from around the world. One of the authors is an employee of a leading software vendor and two of the other three have had business dealings with ESRI over many years. Moreover, many of the illustrations and examples come from the customers of that vendor. We wish to point out however that neither ESRI (or Wiley) has ever sought to influence our content or the way in which we made our judgments, and we have included references to other software and vendors throughout the book. Whilst we make frequent reference to ESRI's Virtual Campus (and some modules of it have been specifically written around this book), we also make reference to similar sources of information in both paper and digital form. We believe we have created something novel but valuable by our lateral thinking in all these respects. Whether we actually have or not is of course for others to judge.


We use the acronym GISin many ways in the book, partly to emphasize one of our goals, the interplay between geographic information systems and geographic information science; and at times we use two other possible interpretations of the three-letter acronym: geographic information studies and geographic information services. We distinguish between the various meanings where appropriate or where the context fails to make the meaning clear, especially in Section 1.6 and in the Epilog. We also use the acronym in both singular and plural senses, following what is now standard practice in the field, to refer as appropriate to a single geographic information system or to geographic information systems in general.

We have used a series of devices to aid navigation of the book, notably through the use of color and symbols. Each section is color-coded by a title bar. The header for each box contains an icon to show whether it is technical, relates to people or is about applications.


Although the book stands alone as a self-contained work, we have intended it to be used in conjunction with the two editions of Geographical Information Systems. We include specific references to both editions at the end of each chapter and at points in the text where a reference is particularly appropriate. Wiley has made chapters and the bibliography of the first edition available on the companion Web sites, and The references give access to greater depth, and more detail on many core topics, and also to reviews of more peripheral topics that we have not been able to cover here. Boxes, each with distinctive icons, are used to describe key techniques, to present illustrative real-world applications, and to summarize the activities of key individuals in the field.

At the end of each chapter we also include references to other, easily accessible, books on special topics. We have not attempted to provide a complete bibliography because extensive reference lists appear in both editions of Geographical Information Systems. There are references after each chapter to relevant sections of the materials available online at the ESRI Virtual Campus,; links to other relevant online information; and references to the two Core Curricula developed by the National Center for Geographic Information, and Analysis (NCGIA), both now online. Throughout the book we have tried to limit references to only the most stable WWW sites but unfortunately it is inevitable that some will disappear through time.

We have organized the book in three major but interlocking sections: after two chapters of introduction, the sections appear as Principles (Chapters 3 through 7), Techniques (Chapters 8 through 15), and Practice (Chapters 16 through 19). We conclude with an Epilog (Chapter 20). It was not always easy to decide whether some topic belonged in principles or in techniques but we have tried to separate the persistent principles -- ideas that will be around long after today's technology has been relegated to the museum -- from knowledge that is necessary to an understanding of today's technology and likely near-term developments. Much of the accumulated knowledge that existed in many cases long before digital computers, but is now more important than ever, appears in the Principles section, such as the map projections invented by cartographers in centuries past. Some topics such as uncertainty or spatial interpolation clearly belong in both and we have discussed them in general terms as principles and in specific terms as techniques, with cross-references where appropriate and without unnecessary repetition.


As the book went to press, we were saddened to hear of the death of Professor John Estes, the well-known expert in remote sensing. A long-time colleague of Michael Goodchild at Santa Barbara and long-standing friend of David Rhind, he made major contributions to the new global map (Chapter 19) and to many aspects of the interface between remote sensing and GIS. We gratefully acknowledge his support and friendship. At about the same time we also learned of Ian McHarg's death. McHarg's method, in which planners inventory every level of detail about a place and take this into account in development, is the basis to what became GIS. Ian McHarg was a long term associate of, and inspiration to, Michael Goodchild and will also be sadly missed.

We take complete responsibility for all the material contained herein. But much of it draws upon contributions made by friends and colleagues from across the world, many of them outside the academic GIS community. We thank them all for those contributions, and the discussions we have had over the years. We cannot mention all of them but would particularly like to mention the following:

For their input to this project, and for many GIS discussions over the years: Mike Batty, Clint Brown, Nick Chrisman, Keith Clarke, Andy Coote, Danny Dorling, Jason Dykes, Max Egenhofer, Pip Forer, Andrew Frank, Gayle Gaynor, Richard Harris, Les Hepple, Sophie Hobbs, Karen Kemp, Chuck Killpack, Vanessa Lawrence, John Leonard, Bob Maher, David Mark, David Martin, Scott Morehouse, Scott Orford, Peter Paisley, Jonathan Raper, Helen Ridgway, Jan Rigby, Christopher Roper, Garry Scanlan, Karen Siderelis, David Simonett, Andy Smith, Roger Tomlinson, Carol Tullo, Dave Unwin, David Willey, Jo Wood, Mike Worboys.

To Peter Haggett, for guidance (not always heeded!) as to how to prepare a good textbook.

At University College London, where much of the artwork was drawn, and the drafts assembled: Nick Mann, Elanor McBay, Cath Pyke, Sarah Sheppard.

Our friends in Tuscany: General Facciorusso, Col Serino, Lt Col Orru, and Captain Bari of the Italian Geography and Mapping Institute for their hospitality and for showing us their astounding maps and books from the 15th century onwards. At John Wiley: Rob Garber, Jim Harper, Lou Page, and (for guiding the project from conception to fruition) Sally Wilkinson.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the contribution of Jack Dangermond, a true visionary, whose enthusiasm has done much to inspire the entire GIS enterprise, both at ESRI and around the world.

We would especially like to thank the following people for allowing us to use their material: Academic Press Ltd, Aerial Images Inc./ Sovinformsputnik, the Association of American Geographers, Autodesk, Richard Bailey, Mike Batty, Blackwell Publishers, CA Department of Fish and Game, Martin Callingham, John Colkins of ESRI and the State of Hawaii for the background image on the front cover, Tom Cova, Peter H. Dana, Daratech Inc., Frank W. Davis of University of California Biogeography Lab., DeLorme Publishing Co. Inc., Daniel Dorling, Durham Herald Company Inc., Earth Science Department of University of Siena in Italy, Ecotrust, ERDAS Inc., EROS Data Center, ESRI, Experian, GDS, the Geographical Magazine, GTCO Calcomp, Richard Harris, Human Settlements Research Center of Tsinghua University in China, Institute of Transport Engineers, Intergraph, Landmark Information Group, Mitch Langford of MRRL (University of Leicester), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Leica, London Transport Museum, MapInfo, Inc., David Mark, Matrix Directory and Information Services, Microsoft, NASA/JPL/Caltech, Open GIS Consortium Inc., C. S. Papacostas, Pearson Education Ltd, Jesper Persson of Teleadress Information AB, Pinter Press, Professor J. Radke, San Parks in South Africa, Ashton Shortridge, Andy Smith, Taylor & Francis, Henry Tom of Oracle, USGS Department of the Interior, Richard Webber, and Marcel de Wit.

Whilst every effort has been made to trace the owners of copyright material, in a few cases this has proved impossible and we take this opportunity to offer our apologies to any copyright holders whose rights we may have unwittingly infringed.

Finally, thanks go to our families, especially Amanda, Fiona, Heather, and Christine, who have endured so much during the preparation of this manuscript.

Paul Longley
Michael Goodchild
David Maguire
David Rhind
November 2000

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