Charles Waldheim, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, talks about the invention of GIS

The intellectual implications of geographic information systems (GIS) are enormous, and their practical applications are now in worldwide use.

Since its origins in the 1960s, GIS has enabled designers, planners, developers, public agencies, and communities to make better decisions about the shape of urbanization and its impact. GIS improves design and planning by using geographically referenced data on subjects ranging from the economy to ecology and beyond.

GIS was an innovation that emerged from the Laboratory for Computer Graphics at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). The “Lab” was founded by Harvard College and GSD graduate Howard Fisher in 1965 with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The grant was intended to explore the role of computer graphics in solving the social, spatial, and urban problems of the American city. A primary goal of this work was to aggregate ecological, sociological, and demographic data and to spatialize that data through computer mapping.
Harvard Gazette, October 12, 2011