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The Indian Marine is formed by the British. 1669

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The Indian Marine is formed by the British.
Jean Picard measures a degree of latitude on the meridian of Paris and later in the century Giovanni Cassini and his son Jacques continue to measure this meridian within France, and find that the length of a degree of latitude appears to diminish northward, suggesting that the earth was prolate, or flattened at the equator.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwitch is established as a Centre for Astronomical Research to improve navigation techniques.
On its change of base from Surat to Bombay (present Mumbai), the Indian Marine takes the name ‘The Bombay Marine’.
Sir Isaac Newton, in his ‘Principia Mathematica’, demonstrates as a corollary to his theory of gravitation that the earth is in fact flattened at the poles.

Theatrum of Ortelius

In the 17th century, among all the 41 editions of the atlas ‘Theatrum’ of Ortelius, the last one was published in 1612. In addition to the 21 Latin editions, there were two Dutch editions, five German, six French, four Spanish, two Italian and one English (1606). Gerritsz engraved and published several charts as the draughtsman of a magnificent manuscript map of the Pacific Ocean, is one of them ‘Caert van’t landt Eendracht’ was published in 1627 that portrayed the coast of western Australia discovered by the Dutch vessel, Eendracht. At the end of the 17th century, the reformation of cartography began with the longitude measurements of the French Academy. There were successive stages in the making of the new map of France, such as the measurement of an arc of the meridian of Paris by the Abbe Picard, in 1669-’70, by means of a chain of triangles, the first attempt to produce a new map of France by adjusting existing surveys, supplemented by observations for latitude and longitude, to the Paris meridian and planned survey of the whole country. Following the establishment of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich as a centre for astronomical research to improve navigation techniques, English maps began to use Greenwich as their prime meridian - a fixed point from which longitude was measured. In this period of time, the gap between popular and scientific geography was narrowed. New surveys were made and new maps drawn by cartographers who were also accomplished astronomers like the Cassini family in France, or scholars like d’Anville, or marine hydrographers like J. N. Bellin, Captain Cook and Murdock Mackenzee.

In India, mapping during the early 17th century focused much on the polity of the Mughal Empire. Those maps emphasised the seat of Mughal power in the northern plains and showed the Mughal territories west of the Indus, especially Punjab, the Hindu Kush, and occasionally Afghanistan, but the peninsula was omitted. The southward expansion of Mughal power under Aurangazeb (reigned 1658- 1707) in the late 17th century led to the merging of the two regional framings in the early 18th century; the European cartographers extended their maps of the empire to incorporate the peninsula.
Mapping the Maps : 1700-1800 AD

Time Line

Hermann Moll's "The West Part of India, or the Empire of the Great Mogul" is published.
French geographer, Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville publishes a map of India laying the Indian geographical knowledge on a scientific footing. ‘Atlas Universal’ of Gilles and Didier Robert de Vaugondy is first published with maps of whole Indies.
The East India Company establishes the Survey of India (SOI) for mapping the territories it acquired, for developing them for commercial exploitation. Till now it is responsible for topographic survey related cartography and for the preparation of up-to-date maps, covering the whole country with an area of 32,87,263 km2, on standard scales (1:25,000, 1:50,000 and 1:250,000).
The professional approach in Hydrography starts from the days of "Atlases of parts of India" and "Directory" based on systematic surveys using traditional methods by Rennell and Ritcher Dalymple Horsburg, Ross, Walker, Lloyd etc.
Surveyor General James Rennell’s Bengal Atlas and Bihar Atlas are published.
Lt. Col. Mark Wood prepares plan of Calcutta.
Cary’s ‘Map of the Great Post-Roads between London and Falmouth’ is prepared.
First Map of ‘Hindoostan’ is prepared by the then Surveyor General of India.
Rennell’s famous Map of India is published and this becomes the starting point in map-making by the Indian Government.
Cassini and William Roy officially establish the Ordnance Survey (first known as the Trigonometrical Survey) as the outcome of survey operations for the connection of England and France in 1787.
Alexander Read uses a Plane Tabling, one of the topographical survey techniques, for the first time to make sketch of Salem and Bara Mahal.
A. Upjohn prepares a map of Calcutta and its environs in 1792-’93.
Col. W. Lambton initiates trigonometrical and general survey of the South Peninsula at the end of the year.

Bourguignon d'Anville

The contributions of renowned French cartographer, J. B. Bourguignon d’Anville (1697-1782), to cartography cannot be disputed. Some of his notable maps include the continents of North America (1746), South America (1748), Africa (1749), Asia (1751), the ‘Indies’ (1752), Europe presented in three sheets (1754-’60) and a general map of the world in two hemispheres (1761). The first map of the ‘Indies’, ‘Carte de l’Inde’ was published in 1752 at the scale of about 1:3,000,000 in four sheets. The map was prepared on paper of almost one sq. mt. area and extended from the Indus to the China Sea, with the subcontinent on the left and Indochina on the right. In 1753, he prepared large-scale maps of ‘Carnate’ and ‘Coromandel’ - the southeast coast of the country. In these large-scale maps, he put down detailed information like "This is the part of India where the settlements that support the trade of the Europeans--." However, the data for most of the areas was so sparse that a major portion of the map was shown as white space. Soon after the Battle of Wandiwash (1760), the purpose and use of maps underwent major changes and they began to be prepared on more scientific grounds.

James Rennell

The "Father of Indian Geography", James Rennell, as Surveyor General of Bengal, collected together the geographical data acquired by the British Army columns on their campaign and began to map all of India in 1765, subdividing India according to the Mughal provinces (subas) as defined under Emperor Akbar (reigned 1555-1605). The translation of an Islamic geography of the empire, the Ain-e-Akbari (1598) helped him to acquire the knowledge about the old divisions. His ‘Bengal Atlas’ (1781) was the earliest known reference of an atlas which was followed by the ‘Atlas of India’, showing the provinces in the Bengal Presidency and western provinces, published by the then British Government of India in Calcutta. The title of Rennell’s memoirs explicitly equated India with the Mughal Empire - Memoir of a Map of Hindoostan; or the Mogul Empire, although the maps presented the entire subcontinent, usually referred by him as ‘India’.

Mapping the Maps : 1800-1900 AD

Time Line

On April 10, the actual work of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (GTS) commences by measurement of a baseline near Madras.
The development of German Geography begins with the publication of ‘Atlas geographique et physique’, as a result of the travel and studies in New Spain of Alexander von Humboldt.
The first Surveyor General of India is appointed having authority over all the surveyors in the three Presidencies.
The first fascicule of the famous ‘Hand-Atlas’, under the direction of Justus Perthes’ son Wilhelm is issued.
A project is established to compile an Atlas of India at the medium scale of four miles to an inch (1: 253,440). The GTS is tied to the production of the atlas.
Colonel Sir George Everest becomes the Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (GTS).
Colonel Sir George Everest becomes the Surveyor General of India and retains it till 1843.
The magnetic observatories are set up at Simla, Madras and Singapore and observations are taken from 1841-45, and after that, these are closed down temporarily.
Arrival of Thomas Oldham in Calcutta marks the establishment of the Geological Survey of India.
P. W. Simmis prepares the maps of the City and Environs of Calcutta.
The ‘Royal Atlas’, the German sheets is published, prepared by Alexander Keith Johnston. A French photographer and balloonist Gaspard Felix Tournachon, also known as Nadar, who carried his bulky cameras aloft, starts aerial photography and remote sensing.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is established.
Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) on 16 inches to a mile and the Landuse Maps form the basis of Cadastral (settlement) surveys.
The first census of India is carried out by the Registrar General of Census of India.
The Marine Survey of India is established, that carries out systematic hydrographic surveying.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is established.
International Federation of Surveyors is established in Paris.
At the International Geographical Congress, Berne, Professor Albrecht Penck advances the idea of an International Map of the World on a scale of 1:1 million.
J. G. Bartholomew publishes the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s ‘Atlas of Scotland’.
The first edition of the ‘Soumen Kartaso: Atlas of Finland’ is published.
Aerial Photography

Gaspard Felix Tournachon (1859), also known as Nadar, was a famous French photographer and ballonist who carried big cameras aloft. His goal was to make land surveys from aerial photographs. Although not fully succesful in his attempt, he set the stage for the future of remote sensing. His photographic observation did, however, catch the attention of the military. In April 1861, Professor Thaddeus Lowe went up in a balloon near Cincinnati, Ohio, to make a weather observation. Later on he was appointed as the in-charge of the US Army Balloon Corps. In 1903, realising the danger involved in the use of balloons, a very light camera was attached to a carrier pigeon. These cameras took a picture every 30 seconds as the pigeons winged its way along a straight course to its home shelter. Pigeons were certainly faster than balloons, but their flight paths were unpredictable. Wilbur Wright was the first pilot in remote sensing history who took photographs from an aeroplane. The first photograph from an aircraft was taken by Wilbur’s passenger, L. P. Bonvillain, on a demostration flight in France in 1908. In 1909, the first aerial motion pictures were taken by him in Italy.


Colonel William Lambton in December 1799 put forward the proposal of the Great Trigonometric Survey (GTS) of India. On February 6, 1800 formal orders were issued for the commencement of the survey. The actual work of the GTS of India was started on April 10, 1802 by the measurement of a base line near Madras. From this base line, a series of triangles were carried up to the Mysore plateau and a second base was measured near Bangalore in 1804. The series was taken across the peninsula from this place. Having connected the two sides of the peninsula, Major Lambton measured an arc of the meridian, and the series of triangles that were measured for this purpose were known as the "Great Arc Series". In 1818, Sir George Everest joined with Lambton. Both Lambton and Everest considered their work to be of global importance -- the measurement of the arc had contributed to British, French and Swedish attempts to mathematically compute the exact shape of the earth.

Mapping the Maps : 1900-1950 AD

Time Line

Smart maps of Calcutta are published in 856 sheets.
The Survey of India gets engaged in survey beyond the Indian territory.Revenue Survey is transferred from the Survey of India to the state authorities.
The Imperial Forest Research Institute is established, which evolved as the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun.
Wilbur Wright’s passenger, L. P. Bonvillian takes the first photographs from an aircraft on a demonstration flight in France.
The first aerial motion pictures are taken in Italy.
The International Society of Photogrammetry (ISP) is founded under the leadership of its first President, Eduard Dolezal from Austria.
During the First World War (1914-1918), the value of complete aerial photographic reconnaissance is recognised by both sides: Germany acquires nearly 4000 photos a day as part of the planning for their last great offensive (1918), and the US Army has made over one million prints during the last four months of the war.
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is established.
The International Hydrographic Bureau (IHB) is formed in Monaco and starts working to bring uniformity and standardisation in hydrographic database creations.
The International Geographical Union is established in Brussels.
The Royal Geographical Society publishes ‘The Times Atlas of the World’, with the characteristic layer coloured maps.
OGS Crawford from England is the inventor of the scientific aerial-archaeology with his photograph on the "Celtic fields", old soil marked field boundaries at Windmill Hill.
The Official Secrets Act is enacted in India.
The British Survey of India maps on 1:63,360 scale are published.
Maps on the Environs of Calcutta in the Imperial Gazetteer of India are published.
The ‘Atlas of American Agriculture’ prepared by O. E. Baker is published.
The first volume of the ‘Atlas Bolshoi’, one of the earliest atlases made by the Soviet cartographers, is published between 1937 and 1939.
Military Survey is set up during the Second World War (1939-45) by the SOI.
The American Geographical Society on the initiative of its former Director, Isaiah Bowman, produces the ‘Million Map of Hispanic America’.
Last ordnance survey of India is carried out. Geodetic and research branch is split by the formation of the War Survey Research Institute.
Wars and Maps

In the early 20th century, the half-inch and ten-mile maps followed the method of preparing Quarter Inch Maps. In the third edition of the One-Inch map, completed in 1912, known as the ‘fully coloured’, relief was shown in brown and contours in red. In the years before 1914, experiments in the best methods of showing relief were carried on vigorously. Before 1917, cartography was well advanced in the former Soviet Union and the daunting task of mapping its Asian territories had been tackled. By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, of the approximate total of 975 sheets required to cover the land surface, 405 were published, but of these, only 232 conformed to the international pattern. Partly because of the insufficiency of material available for mapping, the Geographical section, General Staff under the British Government, between 1919 and 1939, produced a series of large scale maps such as of Africa, 1:2 million and Asia at 1:4 million. In the years since 1945, the science and art of cartography has advanced to an extent comparable to that achieved in any other great period of the past.

Swami Pranavananda

The exploration work in the Himalayas and Tibet by Swami Pranavananda, a Telugu Sanyasi explorer, of Holy Kailas and Manasarovar was a great task in unfolding the mystery and beauty of the Himalayas. He discovered the true sources of four great Himalayan rivers, the Indus, the Sutlej, the Brahmaputra and the Karnali. The Royal Geographical Society of London and the Survey of India accepted his findings; the SOI has incorporated them in the maps published since 1941. His thrilling book on ‘Exploration in Tibet’ was published by the University of Calcutta in 1950.

During this period, attempts were made by some private publishers and the Survey of India to produce atlases. The most significant contribution in this direction was by Prof. S. P. Chatterjee and Economic Atlas of Andhra Desa (now Andhra Pradesh) prepared by V. L. S. Prakasa Rao and V. V. Ramanadhan.
Mapping GIS Milestones : 1950-1960

Time Line

On 13th November, the policy of restriction on maps is first enunciated vide Ministry of Defence, Government of India, letter No. F.119/49/D-1. 
The National Sample Survey (NSS) sets up a programme of conducting large scale surveys to provide data for estimation of national income and related aggregates, especially related to unorganised sectors of the economy and for planning and policy formulation.
The Soviet cartographers publish two volumes and index of the ‘Morskoi Atlas’. 
The Meteorological Office of Britain publishes the ‘Climatological Atlas of the British Isles’.
Planning in India starts with the First Five Year Plan (1951-56).
1954 The Naval Hydrographic Office is established, which is responsible for hydrographic surveying and charting of the Indian Waters.
Development of Photography is introduced and the first stereo plotting machine a Wild Autograph A-7 was brought at Survey of India.
The Soviet cartographers prepare the ‘Atlas Mira’.
From 1954 to 1960, ‘Atlas of Australian Resources’ with maps of Australia generally on the scale of 1:6 million is published.
At the instance of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) is founded.
SOI assumes its new dimensions with the switch over to the metric system.
The French Institute of Pondicherry, ‘Institute Francais de Pondicherry is established through the treaty of Cession of French Establishment in India.
The Institute Geographique National, Paris, publishes the ‘Relief Form Atlas’ in French and English editions.
With the launch of Sputnik, mounting of cameras on orbiting spacecraft becomes possible.
The first ‘National Atlas of India’ is produced in Hindi.
An elaborate successor of the ‘Canadian Atlas’ is published.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is established.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation, India (DRDO) is established by amalgamating Defence Science Organisation and some of the Technical Development Establishments.
The US AMS series of maps covering the Himalaya Range from Bhutan to Pakistan on 1:250,000 scale is published.
13 founding members in Bern form the International Cartographic Association.


National Aeronautics Space and Administration (NASA) has a rich history of unique scientific and technological achievements in human space flight, aeronautics, space science and space applications. NASA, formed on October 1, 1958 as a result of the Sputnik crisis of confidence, inherited the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other US government organisations and almost immediately began working on options for human space flight. NASA’s first high profile programme was Project Mercury and Project Gemini that used spacecraft built for two astronauts. NASA’s human space flight efforts then extended to the moon with Project Apollo, culminating in 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission first put humans on the lunar surface. After the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz Test Projects of the early and mid 1970s, NASA’a human space flight efforts again resumed in 1981, with the Space shuttle programme that continues today to help build the International Space Station.

Edifying the NACA roots, NASA has continued to conduct many types of cutting-edge aeronautics research and also on such topics as "lifting bodies" (wingless airplanes) and "supercritical wings" to dampen the effect of shock waves on transonic aircraft. In addition, NASA has launched a number of significant scientific probes such as the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft that have explored the Moon, the planets, and the other areas of our solar system. NASA has sent several spacecraft to investigate Mars including the Viking and Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. The Hubble Space Telescope and other space science spacecraft have enabled scientists to make a number of significant astronomical discoveries about our universe. NASA has helped bring about new generations of communication satellites such as the Echo, Telstar and Syncom satellites. NASA’s efforts have literally changed the way we view our home planet; the Landsat and Earth Observing System spacecraft have contributed many important scientific findings.


Established in 1956, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) is the premier organisation in India in the field of preparation of thematic maps. The functions of the organisation are compilation of the National Atlas of India in English and Hindi, preparation of National Atlas Maps in regional languages, preparation of thematic maps based on research studies on environmental and associated aspects and their impact on social and economic development, installation of Automated Mapping System for increasing efficiency in mapping and Geographical / Cartographical research and training. In the year of its establishment, NATMO produced the first National Atlas of India combining statistical thematic mapping to cartographic knowledge.

Mapping GIS Milestones : 1960-1970

Time Line

First meteorological satellite (TIROS-1) is launched.
USSR’s first Cosmos satellite is launched.
Britain’s first satellite Ariel is launched.
In the wake of the Chinese aggression, maps on ½ inch scale and larger for the whole of India are restricted by Ministry of Defence
Development of Canada Geographic Information Systems (CGIS) commences, led by Roger Tom Linson, to analyse Canada’s national inventory.
The Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis, Harvard University, US is established by Howard Fisher.
Inception of Forest Survey of India (FSI).
Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC) established at Thumba, India.
1966 Indian Photo-Interpretation Institute (IPI), now known as the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), is established.
Howard Fisher developes SYMAP (Synagraphic Mapping System), a pioneering automated computer mapping application, at the Northwestern Technology Institute, University of Chicago and completed it at the Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis.
The second edition of the best known atlas of the United States, ‘National Geographic Atlas of the World’ is published.
Aerial photographs in India are graded secret unless advised to be graded top secret vide Air Headquarters No. Air HQ / S_20173 / Air Int., dated 11.04. 67.
Apollo 8 Space programme returns the first pictures of the Earth from deep space.
The first Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) is developed and launched by NASA in 1968. Later on it was transferred to NOAA for day-to-day activities.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is established.
Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI) is founded by Jack and Laura Dangermond as a privately held consulting group.
Jim Meadlock establishes Intergraph Corporation (originally called M & S Computing Inc).
NASA succeeds with a great start on the Moon and in orbit around the Earth. As the link up between Apollo and Soyuz, Skylab establishes a lasting presence in space.

Harvard Laboratory

The Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis laid its foundation with the development of general purpose mapping software in the mid-1960s by Howard Fisher. A GIS-type course was taught in 1966 as a "collaborative regional-scale studio and used SYMAP in a landscape-planning study of the peninsula. SYMAP was invented in Chicago and then Fisher moved to Harvard where SYMAP and GIS evolved into many other things. The educational and research programme grew through the 60s, 70s and the 80s with GIS approach and automated mapping systems with development of databases. Apart from the SYMAP, other Harvard packages, which were equally important in the developing field of GIS and spatial data analysis, were CALFORM (late 1960s), SYMVU (late 1960s), GRID (late 1960s), Polyvrt (early 1970s) and ODYSSEY (mid 1970s).


Jack and Laura Dangermond founded ESRI in 1969 as a privately held consulting group. The business began with $1100 from their personal savings and operated out of an historic home located in Redlands, California.

ESRI’s early research and development in cartographic data structure, specialised GIS software tools and creative applications set the stage for today’s revolution in digital mapping. Today ESRI continues to set standards in the GIS industry. Its software is installed at more than 100,000 client sites worldwide, of which about 13000 are in Asia and the Pacific regions. Worldwide, ESRI has over 91 distributors, 16 of which are located in Asia.


The Indian space programme was driven by the vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, considered as the father of Indian Space Programme. In June 1972 the Government of India set up the Space Commission and the Department of Space (DOS). Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), under DOS, executes space programme through its establishments located in different parts of India.

The main objective of the space programme includes the devlopment of satellites, launch vehicles, sounding rockets and support ground systems.

Mapping GIS Milestones : 1970-1980

Time Line

The French Institutes of Pondicherry launches a cartographic programme for the Western Ghat area.
National Sample Survey (NSS) is regognised by bringining together all aspects of survey work into a single unified agency, known as the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) under the Department of Statistics.
Operational System for collecting information about the earth on a repetitive schedule starts with the help of the instruments like Skylab (later, the Space Shuttle)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is established.
Department of Science and Technology (DST) is established with the objective of promoting new areas of Science and Technology.
Survey of India gets transferred to DST after a trail of supervisons from the Defence Ministry, Agricultural Department and Education.
Mekaster International Pvt. Ltd is established, which later started marketing Trimble GPS and Ground Penetration Radars for sub-surface mapping.
The Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS) becomes fully operational.
ISO establishes various centres like Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Shar Centre, ISRO Satellite Application Centre (ISRO), Space Application centre (SAC), ISRO is brought under Department of Space.
The first Landsat satellite is launched (originally known as ERTS-1) by NASA that was dedicated to mapping natural and cultural resources on land and ocean surfaces.
General Information System for Planning (GISP) is developed by the US Department of the Environment.
Society of Photogrammetry is established and formally registered with the ideas sown in 1969, which is renamed as Indian Society of Remote Sensing by 1980s.
First issue of Photonirvachak (which is later known as Indian Journal of Remote Sensing) is published.
Maryland Automatic Geographic Information (MAGI), one of the first statewide GIS projects begins in US.
The first AUTOCARTO conference is held in September, in Reston, Virginia. (Although the AUTOCARTO series really started the year before as the International Symposium on Computer Assisted Cartography).
The first Synchronous Meteorological Satellite, SMS-1 operational prototype is launched.
India’s first indigenous scientific satellite Aryabhata is launched by the Soviet launch vehicle.
National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) is established at Hyderabad for acquisition and distribution of data from various satellites.
European Space Agency is formed.
Indian Photogrammetric Institute, (presently known as Indian Institute of Remote Sensing) comes under NRSA.
National Informatics Centre (NIC) is established.
Minnesota Land Management Information System (MLMIS), another significant state-wide GIS, begins as a research project at the Centre for Urban and Regional Analysis, University of Minnesota.
1977 The USGS developes the Digital Line Graph (DLG) spatial data format.
ERDAS is founded.
A Radar Imaging System - the main sensor on Seasat, US is launched.
Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZSC) instrument is flown on-board the NIMBUS 7 platform that collected ocean colour data from November 1978 to June 1986.
Indian National Cartographic Association(INCA) is established.
Bhaskara I, an indigeneous earth observation satellite is launched by a Soviet Vehicle.
For the first time, the Indian Navy’s ship takes part in the international venture "Monsoon Experiments (MONEX 79)" to study the onset, break-up and advance of monsoon.
The Government of India sets up the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) with headquarters at Roorkee.
Australian Centre for Remote Sensing (ACRES), Australia’s major Remote Sensing organisation which is established as the Australian Landsat station


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a multivaried American environmental scientific agency composed of the National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries service, National Environmental satellite Data and Information Service and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research of the US government. The creation of NOAA on October3, 1970 was the result of a series of decisions, which recognised the importance of the oceans and atmosphere to the nation's welfare and economy. Three of the principal NOAA offices-maritime charting, weather and fisheries were all created in the 19th century. Maritime charting began as the Survey of the Coast in 1807 and US Army Lake Survey in 1841. The first national weather warning service was created in the Department of the Army in 1870; and the US Fish commission was created in 1871. These were the precursors of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The beginnings of National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information service (NESDIS) can be traced back to the Coast & Geodetic Survey magnetic investigations in the 19th century. NESDIS's National Climatic Data Center can be traced to the passage of the Federal Records Acts of 1950, and the establishment of the National Weather Records centre in Asheville, North Carolina.

Aryabhata to IRS-P4

During 1970s, India undertook demonstration of space applications for communication, broadcasting and remote sensing by designing and building experimental satellites. Aryabhata, Bhaskara, Apple and Rohini are the experimental satellites launched. Aryabhata the first experimental satellite launched in April 19 1975 from Kupustin Yar on Kosmos 11 K 65 M.

Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS), commissioned in 1988, has the world's largest constellation of five remote sensing satellites in orbit, IRS-1B, IRS-1C, IRS-1D, IRS-P3 and IRS-P4. The first in the IRS series was the IRS-1A, launched on 17 March, 1988. Till the launch of IKONOS, IRS-1C and IRS-1D were the highest resolution civilian satellites.


Landsat satellites for the past two and a half decades have been providing the repetitive aquisition of high-resolution multispectral data on global basis. A unique 25-year data record of the Earth’s land surface now exists. This unique retrospective potrait of the Earth’s surface has been used across disciplines to achieve improved understanding of the earth’s land surface and the impact of humans on the environment. The development of the Landsat programme was in a sense a spinoff from the US Lunar program when certain NASA scientist realised the significance of viewing of the Earth from space. Thus in 1967, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) encouraged by the US department of the Interior initiated the Earth Resource Technology Satellite (ERTS) program which was renamed as "LANDSAT PROGRAM" during the second launch of the Landsat satellite series. This program resulted in the deployment of six satellites and one failure.


National Informatics Centre (NIC) was set up in 1976 with a long term objective of setting up a computer-based informatics network for decision support to Governments/Ministries/Departments, development of databases relating to India’s socio-economic development and monitoring planned programmes. Since 1977, NIC has been playing a catalytic role in creating informatics awareness. NIC operates a nation-wide satellite (INSAT) based computer communication network called NICNET to facilitate information flow from the points of origin to the place of decision making. NICNET is one of the largest VSAT-based networks of its kind in the world. Operating on C-band and high speed Ku-band, NICNET can be accessed through terrestrial linkages also, at any time of the day. Around 700 locations in India, including all state capitals, district headquarters and selected commercial centres can be directly accessed through NICNET. It is connected to over 200 International Networks in 160 countries.

Mapping GIS Milestones : 1980-1990

Time Line

1980 First National level Symposium is organised by the Indian Society of Remote Sensing at DehraDun, since then it is being conducted regularly.
Rohini - 1 indigenous technology satellite is launched by Indian SLV-3.
The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) is established.
International Society for Photogrammetry changes its name to International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS).
The Census of India evolves 10,000 sq. km. grid for a new approach to urbanisation by placing the urban settlements of all classes and measures the urbanisation with reference to such grids for the entire country at 1:4.5 million scale as an experiment, for preparing the Census Atlas of India.
Rolta India is established.
APPLE, an experimental geostationary communication satellite gets launched in European Ariane vehicle.
Bhaskara-II is launched.
The use of automation and digital cartography starts in Naval Hydrographic Office (now National Hydrographic Office) with acquisition of new ships, modern automated equipments, automated data logging and plotting system, automated Cartographic & Printing system.
ESRI launches ARC / INFO.
JPL’s Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR-A) launches the first synthetic imaging radar carried by NASA’s Space Shuttle Orbiter.
1982 Natural Resource Data Management System (NRDMS), a multi-disciplinary programme of the DST under the Goverment of India is launched in order to initiate and promote research and development cum demonstration in the field of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology and its application.
Survey of India (SOI) adopts automated cartography.
INSAT - 1A multipurpose satellite is launched.
An Environmental information System (ENVIS) is set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests as a decentralised information network for collection, storage, retrieval and dissemination of environmental information.
System Research Institute (SRI) starts GIS activities.
Indian National Satellite System is established with the commissioning of INSAT-1B.
The government with the Department of Space, sets up National Natural Resource Management System (NNRMS) as a nodal agency for optimal utilisation of natural resources, using space-based remote sensing data in conjunction with conventional techniques.
Speck Systems Limited established
Digital mapping company, EKTAK is formed.
1984 The Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi promotes the use of Information Technology (IT) in the country.
Geological Information System is prepared using a training package called MAPS from Yale University, US.
Survey of India initiates theDigital Mapping project to convert 1:50,000 toposheets into digital format for public use.
Department of Space initiates two projects National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Management System (NADAMS) and Crop Acreage and Production Estimation (CAPE) under the programme Remote Sensing Applications for Agricultural Applications for Department of Agricultural and Co-operation for monitoring of vegetation status using NOAA and AVHRR data.
The GPS (Global Positioning System) becomes operational.
Development of GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System), a raster based GIS programme, starts at the US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories.
Remote Sensing Instruments Pvt. Ltd., a GIS company is formed in Hyderabad
Department of Space developes ISRO-GIS.
‘Mapping Awareness’, the business-to-business magazine for geographic technology users and managers in the United Kingdom and Ireland is founded.
The first SPOT satellite Earth Observation System is launched and designed by Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in France and developed with the participation of Sweden and Belgium.
Mapinfo is founded.
The Government of India announces a ‘Software Policy’, which gave the framework for certain industries to import softwares from abroad.
The International Journal of Geographical Information Analysis gets published.
Tydac releases SPANS GIS.
Ron Eastman starts the IDRISI Project at Clark University.
Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) system is commissioned with the launch of IRS-1A.
The National Centre for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) is established in the USA.
‘SMALLWORLD’ is established. 
Ezra Zubrow, State University of New York at Buffalo starts the GIS-L Internet list-server. 
The first public release of the US bureau of Census ‘TIGER’ (Topographically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) digital data products.
Founded as GIS World, the monthly magazine ‘GEO World’, the world’s first magazine for geographic technology gets published. 
1989 The National Remote Sensing Agency prepares the first Wasteland Atlas. 
The ‘Association of Geographic Information’ (AGI) is formed in the UK. 
Intergraph launches MGE.
The desktop image processing software, ‘ER Mapper’ is launched.


Spot data has become essential to a wide spectrum of users who look to the continuation of the Spot family to prove just how reliable and operational the system has become. The Spot satellite Earth Observation System was designed by the CNES (Centre Nationale d’Etudes Spatiales), France and developed with the participation of Sweden and Belgium. The system comprises a series of spacecrafts plus ground facilities for satellite control and programming, image production and distribution. To meet the increasing demands for Spot Imagery, SPOT 1, 2 & 4 are still operational. Spot imagery for its unique features (high resolution, stereo imaging and revisit capability) enables it to collect data on areas of special interest for various applications. Since 1986 more than 5.5 million images have been archived to provide an unparallel record of our planet.


MapInfo was founded in 1986 by four students from the Renselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest engineering school in the United States. They pioneered the concept of using GIS for making business decisions and created the business mapping market in the early 1990s. MapInfo is also a publicly held company on Nasdaq (MAPS) with its software and data solutions available in 20 languages and distributed through a worldwide channel in 58 countries. MapInfo as "the Information Discovery Company" grew out of the database market, literally creating the software to visualise data in an easy-to-use PC based Windows application for the business decision makers. MapInfo has tried to develop new products for multi-user, multi-platform deployment in both client/server and Internet applications.


GPS, a space based positioning, navigation and timing system was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and emerged in late 60’s and early 70’s. GPS can be thought of as a satellite navigation and satellite positioning system, providing signals for geolocation and for the safe and efficient movement, measurement and tracking of people, vehicles, and other objects anywhere in the world. It is very reliable since it is affected neither by the atmospheric conditions, the topography of the ground nor by the various radioelectric interferences. The Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are extended GPS systems, providing accurate information for critical navigation applications. The NAVSTAR system, operated by U.S DoD, was the first GPS system to be widely available for civilian use. The Russian GPS system, GLONASS, is similar in operation and is proving complimentary to NAVSTAR system. The European Space Agency (ESA) is now funding the GalileoSat as a new parallel new GPS set-up known as Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to be operational by 2008.

Since the early years of its inception, GPS architecture was primarily designed for having a military advantage providing an upper hand to U.S and its military allies. In 1978, the DoD and the DoT co-operated together in publishing the biennial Federal Radionavigation Plan (FRP), which became the principle vehicle to set forth official government GPS policies. The FRP’s published in 1980 and 1982 reflected 500-meter accuracy for civil use and contained provisions for user registration and charges. Further the tragic incident in 1983 in which a Soviet pilot shot down a Korean civilian airliner, lead the Reagan Administration to offer GPS services to the world for the benefit of commercial aviation. Thus the policy of free access to GPS signals was first established in the FRP policy and later in the Federal Laws.

During its implementation stages GPS was not a well known phenomenon and this perhaps was the reason for its success. However, with the rapid adoption of GPS in various spheres GPS has gained the popularity in the scientific community.

Mapping GIS Milestones : 1990-1995

Time Line

The Education and Research Network (ERNET) starts in India.
NATMO comes out with India’s first map on Natural Hazard, "India - Natural Hazard Map", at 1: 6million scale.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr. P.V. Narsimha Rao starts the process of economic reforms.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India established in 1968, starts with the TCS GIS group to provide services in the areas of GIS, Digital Image Processing, Automated Mapping and Facility Management.
‘The Mountain Natural Resource Information Systems (MENRIS) division by ICIMOD, Nepal is established to facilitate the application of GIS and remote sensing.
MapInfo Professional is launched.
The first European Remote-Sensing Satellite (ERS-1) launched that carried radar altimeter.
India launches second Remote Sensing satellite IRS 1B.
Integrated Digital Systems, a GIS company is establishedin Calcutta.
RMSI is launched in India with the support of RMS Inc of US.
Natural Resource Data Management Systems (NRDMS), Department of Science and Technology designs GRAM-GIS (GeoReferenced Area Management) for the entry, storage manipulation, analysis and display of spatial data for a low cost computer configuration.
First Issue of ‘GIS Today’, now known as ‘GIS India’ is published by Geomap Society of India.
Bihar Geographic Information Systems made by Manosi Lahiri, completed at the end of 1991,becomes operational.
Indian Resources Information & Management Technologies (IN-RIMT) is established at Hyderabad.
RAMTECH Corporation, established in 1965, starts GIS activities, with prime emphasis on AM/FM/GIS and CAD/CAE solutions.
Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD) was initiated, which is an important user of IRS data. Department of Space establishes Antrix Corporation for overseas marketing of ISRO capabilities.
CADD Centre, an imaging solution company starts its operation.
The National Space Development Agency (NASDA), Japan launches JERS-1 satellite.
In Lebanon, the Electricite du Libau (EDL) decides to rebuild the entire nations electricity network in GIS environment.
An European magazine, ‘GIS Europe’ starts.
The Election Commission, India creates Pollmap, a digital cartographic database, during the Assembly Elections.
The European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information (EUROGI) is established in Europe.
Foundation of the monthly magazine ‘Business Geographics’ to meet the information needs of business people seeking to use geographic technology.
Computer Eyes is formed.
Indian Society of Geomatics is formed at Ahmedabad.

The creation of Geomatics Laboratory by the French Research Institute of Pondicherry.
IRS-P2 is launched by India.
National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) is formed in US by an executive order of President Bill Clinton.
International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM) is established with members and advisors from NGOs, NMOs and academicians.
PCI Geomatics, a geomatics solution company is formed .
Integrated Digital System (IDS), a Calcutta based GIS company, surveyes all the Calcutta retail outlets by its own team to provide the retail data clubbed with the map data on a GIS.
Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTE - AP) is established on with initiatives taken by the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs.
RADARSAT - SAR satellite is launched.
Launch of third operational Indian Remote Sensing Satellite, IRS-1C.
Infodesk Technologies Pvt. Ltd. starts GIS activities.
National Geographic Data Framework (NGDF) established in UK.
The bi-monthly magazine, ‘GEOAsia Pacific’ starts.


Radarsat is an advanced Earth Observation satellite project developed by Canada to monitor environmental change and to support resource sustainability. The Radarsat project was launched on November 4, 1995 by the Canadian Space Agency and then Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS). Radarsat, planned for a lifetime of five years, is equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The SAR is a powerful microwave instrument that can transmit and receive signals to "see" through clouds, haze smoke and darkness and obtain high quality images of the earth in all weather at any time.

Mapping GIS Milestones : 1995-2000

Time Line

ESRI India is formed.
Japan’s ‘Advanced Earth Observation Satellite’ is launched.
IRS-P3 is launched by India.
NASA and JPL begin America’s study of Mars by launching ‘Mars Global Surveyor’ (MGS) spacecraft.
Tej Technologies, authorised dealer for Ashtech Precision Products is established.
Riding Consulting Engineers India Pvt. Ltd. (RCE) is formed.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr. P.V. Narsimha Rao starts the process of economic reforms.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India established in 1968, starts with the TCS GIS group to provide services in the areas of GIS, Digital Image Processing, Automated Mapping and Facility Management.
‘The Mountain Natural Resource Information Systems (MENRIS) division by ICIMOD, Nepal is established to facilitate the application of GIS and remote sensing.
The visionary Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, leads the state as the most happening place in IT of India.
Leica India Geo systems Ltd. is established
Tata Infotech is appointed as exclusive distributor of MapInfo products in SAARC region.
Bentley India is established.
Kampsax India Ltd. a photogrammetry is formed.
Tele Atlas starts its operation in India.
CSDMS organises India’s first and largest conference and exhibition on GIS/GPS/Remote Sensing - "Map India’ 98".
Eicher releases user-friendly 21" X 35": zonal maps of Delhi.
The National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development is constituted. The Government of India accepts all its recommendations.
For sustainable industrial development of the State, the Government of Uttar Pradesh through the state Industries Policy 1998, proposes a zoning atlas for the entire state so that industry can easily take the decision on the location of a unit.
India hosts the 12th Plenary meeting of the International Committee on Earth Observation Satellites.
ISPRS Commission IV hold its first symposium in Stuttgart (Germany) since it became a commission on GIS and mapping in 1996.

The first "GIS Forum South Asia’99" is organised jointly by CSDMS and ICIMOD at Nepal.
Autodesk India Ltd. is formed.
Sokkia India is incorporated which is a subsidary office of Sokkia Singapore that markets GPS electronic total station, and optical theodolites, levels and laser products.
Landsat 7 carrying Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) is launched. IKONOS is launched
The second Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for sustainable development is organised by UN ESCAP in New Delhi.

GIS@development becomes monthly.


IKONOS, the first commercial 720 kilogram high resolution imaging satellite, was launched into a sun-synchronous, near-polar, circular, low earth orbit on September 24, 1999 from the Vadenberg Air Force base. It simultaneously collects one-metre resolution panchromatic and multispectral images and is designed to take digital images of the earth from 680 km. up. Moving at a speed of about seven kilometres per second, the satellite can distinguish objects on the earth’s surface as small as one square metre. The satellite circles the globe 14 times per day, or once in every 98 minutes.

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