Mark Monmonier

Mark Monmonier, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Geography at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. His current research focuses on the history of cartography in the twentieth century, in particular, the patent system as a parallel literature (parallel to the traditional literature of refereed journals) and issues of originality and non-obviousness in map-related inventions patented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has also written extensively on the use of maps for surveillance and as analytical and persuasive tools in environmental science, journalism, politics, and public administration. His teaches classes on map design, environmental cartography, and graduate-level research design.

Cartography is a crucial element of geographic information systems. GIS professionals use maps as the key means to share and explain geographic phenomena. A quarter-century ago, in 1991, Mark Monmonier published a book, “How to Lie with Maps” that remains a classic in the field of cartography and GIS. Part of the reason why this book remains a must-read for anyone and everyone in the GIS community is because it describes in a very clear, entertaining, and succinct way, the importance of maps as a means to share and illustrate geographical information.

Mark Monmonier is one of the world’s leading cartographers and has played an influential role in the evolution of geographic information systems, focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on cartographic elements of GIS and their societal implications. He is the editor of Volume Six of the History of Cartography, which focuses on cartography in the Twentieth Century. This 1955-page encyclopedia was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and was published in 2015.

On the technical side, Professor Monmonier is known for developing an algorithm (http://www.markmonmonier.com/ ) “… to detect boundaries among vertices of a valuated graph. This is achieved by finding the path exhibiting the largest distances between connected vertices” (http://www.inside-r.org/packages/cran/adegenet/docs/monmonier). This algorithm has become a valuable tool in geographical analysis, and has even been used by biologists who are mapping the results of their research (Manni, Guérard and Heyer 2004). You can get a hint of Professor Monmonier’s wit and accessibility by his characterization of Monmonier’s Algorithm as a “computer recipe.”

Monmonier has authored 19 books, including How to Lie with Maps; Air Apparent: How Meteorologists Learned to Map, Predict, and Dramatize Weather; Bushmanders and Bullwinkles: How Politicians Manipulate Electronic Maps and Census Data to Win Elections; Spying with Maps: Surveillance Technologies and the Future of Privacy; Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection; From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame; Coast Lines: How Mapmakers Frame the World and Chart Environmental Change; No Dig, No Fly, No Go: How Maps Restrict and Control; Lake Effect: Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds, and Recurrent Snows; and Adventures in Academic Cartography: A Memoir.

Monmonier authored the first general textbook on computer-assisted cartography (Prentice-Hall, 1982) and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984. He has been editor of The American Cartographer and president of the American Cartographic Association, and he has published numerous papers on map design, automated map analysis, cartographic generalization, the history of cartography, statistical graphics, and mass communications.

He has served on advisory panels for the National Research Council and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For diverse contributions to cartography, he was awarded the American Geographical Society’s O. M. Miller Medal in 2001, the Pennsylvania State University’s Charles L. Hosler Alumni Scholar Medal in 2007, and the German Cartographic Society’s Mercator Medal in 2009.

More than this, though, Professor Monmonier has made it a practice to reach out to younger scholars, providing encouragement and opportunities to many of us. His kindness and approachability are well-known and appreciated in the GIS academic community. In a sense, the same clarity and humor that are hallmarks of his books are equally present in his interactions with people across the board. He has been a mentor to many academics in the GIS community, and without a doubt he has prepared hundreds of his own students for careers in geographic information systems. Without Professor Monmonier’s insights, knowledge, and mentoring, GIS would not be where it is today. As such he is a thoroughly deserving nominee to the URISA GIS Hall of Fame.

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