Arthur H. Robinson, of 7707 N. Brookline Dr Apt 302, Madison, Wisconsin, died at Meriter Hospital in Madison on October 10, 2004 after a brief illness. Arthur Robinson was born in Montréal, Canada on January 5, 1915, the son of James Howard Robinson and Elizabeth (Peavey) Robinson. His early education was in the United States and in England, after which he took the Bachelor of Arts degree at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1936, the M.A. at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,
Wisconsin in 1938 and the Ph.D. at Ohio State University in 1947.
From mid-1941 until 1946 he worked in Washington, DC with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, and for almost all of that time he was Chief of the Map Division of the OSS. In that position he supervised numerous types of cartographic work, including the preparation of nearly 5,000 maps, in support of the global war effort. During the war he was commissioned in the Army with the initial rank of captain, and was later promoted to major. For his distinguished service in the OSS he received the Legion of Merit.
In 1945 the University of Wisconsin at Madison offered Robinson a faculty position in the Department of Geography, and he began teaching there in 1946. He rose rapidly in the ranks of the faculty, becoming Professor of Geography and, in 1967, Lawrence Martin Professor of Cartography. He retired in 1980 with the rank of Professor Emeritus.
During his long career he produced fifteen books and monographs, one of which, Elements of Cartography, went through six editions and became the preeminent textbook in cartography. However, the contribution for which he is probably best known to the public was the creation of the Robinson Projection, a map projection that he referred to as “a portrait of the earth.” In 1988 the National Geographic Society adopted that projection as its standard for producing world maps. The Robinson projection was adopted by agencies of the U.S. Government and many other users.
Robinson’s work was internationally recognized, and among his many honors were two honorary degrees (from Miami University (Ohio) and from Ohio State University), the Distinguished Service Award and the Helen Culver Gold Medal from the Geographic Society of Chicago, the Carl Mannerfelt Medal of the International Cartographic Association, the Silver Medal of the British Cartographic Society, and the John Oliver LaGorce Medal of the National Geographic Society. He served as president of the International Cartographic Association, and as vice president and president of the Association of American Geographers.
Robinson’s marriage of more than 50 years to the former Mary Elizabeth Coffin ended in 1992 with her death. He later remarried, and is survived by his wife Martha E. Robinson of Madison, son Stephen M. Robinson (Chong-Suk Robinson) of Madison, daughter Patricia A. Robinson (Leslie Kramer) of Sonoita, Arizona, stepdaughter Carita Baker (Ron Baker) of Hamilton, Ohio, stepson Carl James Phillips (Sandie Phillips) of Hamilton, Ohio, stepdaughter Clarissa Lowry (Miles Lowry) of Wheaton, IL, granddaughter Diana M. Oestreich (Nathan Oestreich) of Menlo Park, California, grandson James A. Robinson of Palo Alto, California, and families of the above.
Stephen M. Robinson
Further reading: Arthur H. Robinson is awarded the Carl Mannerfelt Gold Medal