The History of GIS

Posted by Team - 04 April, 2014


mapGIS (geospatial information system), with roots in traditional cartography, has become a useful tool for mapping and evaluating an area of land. Unlike cartography, GIS presents data in a way that can be analyzed and argued so intelligent decisions about property can be made. Believe it or not, GIS didn’t arise as technology began to blossom. Instead, a primitive version of GIS has been around since the 1800s.


Prior to reaching the mid-19th century, a French cartographer by the name of Charles Picquet mapped a cholera epidemic in France. Using color gradients, Picquet created a visual representation of cholera epidemiology that spanned 48 Parisian districts.


Cholera continued to plague much of the most populated areas of Europe in the 19th century. After 1854’s cholera epidemic in London, English physician John Snow mapped the progression of the disease throughout his city. Unlike Picquet, Snow used this map to present information to others with the intention of addressing cholera treatment.

Early 20th Century

Once technology began to progress in the early 20th century, photozincography became a modern printing technique of the time. Using this method, printers were able to separate layers of a map. In the same way that modern GIS is able to separate data sets associated with a map, photozincography created a pictorial separation of developed land, vegetation, and water.

Early 1960’s

Approximately half a century later, the first true GIS were created in Ottowa, Canada. Named CGIS (Canada Geographical Information System), it was used to gather, collate, and analyze information collected for the Canada Land Inventory.


Two decades later, a commercial version of CGIS was created by two organizations, ESRI and CARIS. This version combined Canada’s mapping and imaging tools with newer technology to create a modern geospatial mapping solution.


The industry standard for GIS arose in the 1990’s, when ArcView was released. Designed as a desktop mapping solution for Windows, this GIS version was the grandfather of our current GIS technology.

GIS Use Today

GIS mapping technology has multiple uses in today’s commercial environment. From oil and gas companies to education, over 30 industries benefit from the advancement of GIS technology and its ability to visually represent complex data sets. The following six major industries use GIS technology on a regular basis to perfect planning and operation.

  • Business – Between mapping markets, choosing the best location, and optimizing logistics, GIS technology provides insights into the most promising opportunities and simplifies the management of fleets. For those in finance, GIS assists in the evaluation of risk and investment decisions.
  • Environment and Energy – GIS technology allows professionals to make informed decisions regarding the development of natural resources. Land and energy professionals use GIS maps to perform assessments, site plans, pinpoint land ownership, and evaluate the resource potential of land.
  • Government – Both local and national government employ GIS technology in law enforcement, disaster management, healthcare, and transportation. Specifically, GIS expedites planning and logistics, which increases efficiency while reducing cost. 
  • Science – Educators and researchers use GIS technology to gain a better understanding of the world and its resources. In the development of libraries and museums, GIS technology is used to make connections between the past and present day.
  • Natural Resources – From agriculture and forestry to petroleum and pipelines, GIS maps provide a clear picture of available resources. Common uses of GIS technology include subsurface modeling, locating resources, integrating data post-merger, pipeline modeling, and regulatory compliance management.
  • Utilities – In the management of utilities, GIS technology allows professionals to access, manage, and update information. Within the utilities industry, water, gas, and power management is simplified with the help of GIS maps.

The development of GIS technology streamlined the process of research, planning and project logistics for professionals in nearly every industry.

Find GIS Maps Online

Tracking down a GIS map can take a lot of time and energy – two resources busy professionals may not have. This is where online GIS map search comes in handy. From the comfort of your office or home, online record search enables you to retrieve documents related to any property.

* Image courtesy of

Topics: Surveying

Recent Posts

What are the Features of a Title Plant?

read more

What You Need to Know About Texas Public Records

read more

How to Eliminate Issues Locating Child Support Liens

read more