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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner - Robert W. Marx
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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Robert W. Marx (2001)

Robert W. Marx, or "Bob" as he is better known to most in the profession, began his GIS career in the early 60's while a student in geography and urban planning at the University of Minnesota studying under Dr. John Borchert. To cover his educational expenses, Bob worked in the offices of Hodne Associates, Architects and Planners, preparing land use and comprehensive plan maps for small communities in Minnesota and Illinois under the auspices of the former "Section 701" program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this capacity, he used the precursor to modern automated GIS methods -- mylar base maps and clear overlays emblazoned with Zip-a-Tone shadings and Presstype letters to create the various "views" showing the combinations of information that went into the planning process.

After joining the U.S. Census Bureau in 1966, Bob immediately used those prescient GIS skills learned and practiced in Minnesota at the University and Hodne Associates to help launch the Census Bureau's then fledgling Metropolitan Map Series being prepared as the base for the Address Coding Guides that covered the 145 largest urban centers of the United States for the 1970 decennial census. Although crude by today's standards, these two systems -- comprising the base map information of streets, street names, address ranges, rivers, lakes and their names, railroads, governmental unit boundaries and names, census tract boundaries and numbers, and so forth -- once entered into the Census Bureau's computers and enhanced with the Dual Independent Map Encoding (DIME) technologies then being developed by the Census Use Study. This evolved into the Geographic Base Files (GBFs) covering the 287 largest urban centers of the 1980 census, and then to the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) files that covered the entire United States, Puerto Rico, and the associated Island Areas of the 1990 census and Census 2000.

The TIGER/Line files that debuted in the late 80s and continue to this day provided -- in the public domain for all to use, including the largest and best know of the modern GIS vendors -- the base map and geographic code linkages that allowed the GIS industry of the United States to mushroom and flourish. Even those governments and agencies that had only minimal budgets now could use GIS technology, their various data sets, decennial census data, and the TIGER/Line file base information to do their analyses.

Bob's Lifetime Achievement Award plaque reads: "Robert W. Marx - Conceiver of TIGER and Champion of Unrestricted Access to GIS Data Nationwide"


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