Nat. Geo Hands Out Two Prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Medals


Yesterday the National Geographic Society presented Alexander Graham Bell Medals to two men who have had a lasting and undeniable impact on the field of geography. The honorees were Dr. Roger Tomlinson, who has been called “the father of geographic information systems (GIS),” and Jack Dangermond, a pioneer in the area of spatial analysis methods.

The prestigious awards are named after for the famous inventor who also served as the second president of the National Geographic Society. The medals are given for “extraordinary achievement in geographic research” and have only been awarded once before. Back in 1980, explorers Bradford and Barbara Washburn won the medal for their outstanding contributions in the fields of geography and cartography. 

Tomlinson was recognized for his early, and ground breaking, use of geographic information systems that has changed the very study of the subject. He began is research back in the 1960’s when he applied it to the Canada Land Inventory. Since that time, he has become the leading authority on the changing patter of land use and its impact on the environment. Cities and countries from around the globe consult with him on   a regular basis on how to manage urban development and the use of their natural resources.

Dangermond has been at the forefront of promoting GIS and applying its use, for more than four decades. He has written numerous scholarly papers on the subject, given presentations on its application, and consulted with others on its use. He is also the founder of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), which has developed important software for use in GIS. ESRI has an install base of more 300,000 users, that includes businesses, governments, universities, and NGO’s the world over.

The Alexander Graham Bell Medals were awarded by Bell’s great-grandson, National Geographic Society Chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor, who had this to say about the recipients: “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,”

Congrats to both Tomlinson and Dangermond for winning this award. Considering it has been 30 years since the last time Nat. Geo. handed them out, I’d say they are well deserved. 

Kraig Becker