The history of geospatial science

Where does geospatial science come from?

Geospatial science traces aspects of its lineage back to fields such as geography and surveying.

However, the first recorded instance of someone stepping into the field of spatial analysis came during the 19thcentury – long before the sort of computer technology often associated with the field had been invented.

Intelligence to solve

Flashback to Paris, 1832, where the French geographer Charles Picquet mapped reports of cholera sufferers across the city’s 48 districts.

Jumping ahead to 1854, Englishman John Snow followed Picquet’s lead, mapping cholera outbreak hotspots, property boundaries, roads and waterways in London. In doing so, he made the discovery that cholera outbreaks were occurring along the city’s water lines.

This knowledge was key in saving lives and limiting the illness’s reach.

Picquet and Snow’s maps represent early, key attempts to create a geographic information system (GIS) – in these instances using geographic data to aid public health efforts. Even earlier examples of GIS include using maps in the middle ages to conquer the enemy on the battle field, or the role of roman roads to set territories and define boundaries

Today, geographic information system or GIS is one of the geospatial scientist’s most important tools. It provides insights that may otherwise remain unknown.


Dempsey, C. (2012). History of GIS. Retrieved from

The Remarkable History of GIS. (2018). Retrieved from
History of GIS | Geospatial Revolution. (n.d.). Retrieved from

From yesterday to today

Click here to discover what geospatial science technology looks like in the 21st century.