GIS and Cartography Quotes

Caitlin Dempsey


Looking for a memorable GIS quote? Check out this growing collection of interesting and notable quotes relating to GIS, cartography, maps, and geography.

GIS Quotes

“The early days of GIS were very lonely. No-one knew what it meant.” ~ Roger Tomlinson, Father of GIS

“The application of GIS is limited only by the imagination of those who use it”. ~ Jack Dangermond, Esri

“GIS is waking up the world to the power of geography, this science of integration, and has the framework for creating a better future.” ~ Jack Dangermond, 2015 Esri User Conference

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“GIS is a form of digital mapping technology.  Kind of like Google Earth, but better.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Government Technology Conference’s 2008 Conference on California’s Future.

Digital mapping is about to change our world by documenting the real world, then integrating the information into our computers, phones, and lifestyles. Roll over, Mason and Dixon: spurred by space photography, global satellite position- ing, mobile phones, search engines and new ways of marketing information for the World Wide Web, the ancient art of cartography is now on the cutting edge. ~ Levy, S. 2004. A future with nowhere to hide? Newsweek 143(23):78

Cartography Quotes

“Impossible to map the world–we select and make graphics so that we can understand it” ~ Roger Tomlinson, note on an agenda, 1981.

“The drawing of a parallel between cartography and architecture is instructive. Each lies in the field of the practical arts; each is older than history; and each, since its beginnings, has been more or less under the control of its consumers.” ~ Arthur H. Robinson, The Look of Maps

The good cartographer is both a scientist and an artist. He must have a thorough knowledge of his subject and model, the Earth…. He must have the ability to generalize intelligently and to make a right selection of the features to show. These are represented by means of lines or colors; and the effective use of lines or colors requires more than knowledge of the subject – it requires artistic judgement.” ~ Erwin Josephus Raisz (1893 – 1968)

“The foremost cartographers of the land have prepared this for you; it’s a map of the area that you’ll be traversing.”

[Blackadder opens it up and sees it is blank]

“They’ll be very grateful if you could just fill it in as you go along.”

Blackadder II, British Comedy set in Elizabethan times.
From the episode called “Potato”  

“In cartography, as in medicine, art and science are inseparable. The perfect map blends art and science into an effective tool of visual communication.” ~ Dr. Keith Harries, Mapping Crime: Principle and Practice

Maps Quotes

“Mapping is fundamental to the process of lending order to the world.” ~ Robert Rundstrum, 1926

A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.” ~ Gilbert H. Grosvenor, Editor of National Geographic (1903- 1954)

‘A map says to you. Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not …… I am the earth in the palm of your hands’ ~ Beryl Markham

A number of astronauts, and then all of us who saw the photography from space, marveled at how much the Florida peninsula, meandering Mississippi, the islands of Britain, and the boot of Italy resembled the maps everyone had grown up with. We had taken it for granted that maps were faithful reflections of reality; but we were somehow amazed when reality turned out to be true to the maps.” ~ John Noble Wilford, The Mapmakers

“I’ve always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going — in a sense it’s three tenses in one.” ~ Peter Greenaway, Welsh film director in an interview for Film Comment, May/June 1990

“When our maps do not fit the territory, when we act as if our inferences are factual knowledge, we prepare ourselves for a world that isn’t there. If this happens often enough, the inevitable result is frustration and an ever-increasing tendency to warp the territory to fit our maps. We see what we want to see, and the more we see it, the more likely we are to reinforce this distorted perception, in the familiar circular and spiral feedback pattern.” ~ Professor Harry L. Weinberg, 1959 in Levels of Knowing and Existence: Studies in General Semantics

“I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and I find it hard to believe.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, The Art of Writing on Treasure Island

“Maps are like campfires – everyone gathers around them, because they allow people to understand complex issues at a glance, and find agreement about how to help the land.” ~ Sonoma Ecology Center

“I’ve always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going — in a sense it’s three tenses in one.” ~ Peter Greenaway, A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist (1979)

Spatial Arrangements Quotes

“Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” ~ Tobler’s First Law of Geography

“Knowing where things are, and why, is essential to rational decision making” ~ Jack Dangermond, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)

Geography Quotes

“Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it.” ~ Terry Pratchett in The Last Continent

“Geographers never get lost. They just do accidental field work.” ~ Nicholas Chrisman, Professor of Geomatic Sciences, Université Laval

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.” ~ Gandalf to Bilbo in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

This article was originally written on November 14, 2004 and has since been updated.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.