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Join us for the 28th International Cartographic Conference in Washington, DC!
Welcome to the website of the International Cartographic Association
New ICA poster series on Maps and Sustainable Development Goals

Ferdinand Jan Ormeling (1912–2002)

A very special man, one of the great geographers and cartographers of our time – known to many as ‘Mr ICA’ – died on 1 May 2002. Not a moment of his often hyperactive life was wasted as he expanded his knowledge of the World and its people.

This genuinely charismatic man shared himself constantly through teaching, organisation and leadership, influencing others and helping change things for the better. His powerful intellect and special capacity for building bridges of friendship were in evidence throughout his life.

Born on 12 April 1912, his early childhood was spent in Amsterdam and in nearby Hilversum, where he experienced some of the difficulties, if not the damage, associated with WW1. After completing elementary studies at Hilversum High School he attended the State University of

Utrecht to read geography and history and went on to teach at grammar schools in Hilversum and The Hague. The Netherlands were invaded early in WW2 and this painful occupation continued until liberation in 1945. As a member of the Dutch Army, and true to his own character, Ormeling refused to succumb and joined the underground movement.

The War also affected the Netherlands’ Indonesian colonies where the Pacific conflicts had profound effect. In 1945, at the end of the Japanese occupation, Ormeling was sent, as part of an expeditionary force, to restore order to that troubled land. During the ensuing war-filled years, as a geographer/cartographer he was transferred from field activities to become part of the new Geographical Institute (formed in 1947 as part of the former government mapping organisation) in the capital, Batavia (Jakarta). Here he was involved in many important cartographic and geographical projects. With independence in 1949 most of the Dutch returned to Europe, but not Ormeling. The fact that he was asked, by those who had previously been foes, to remain and continue his work (in office and field), is convincing evidence of his special intellectual and personal qualities. Full recognition of this came in 1950 when he was appointed (at the young age of 37) as Head of the Institute, with almost 50 employees. The work evolved to include not only small-scale mapping and increasingly important geographical surveys of the country but also the education and training of the staff of the Indonesian Topographic Service.

During the years that followed he developed his knowledge of the country, in particular the Island of Timor (almost twice the size of the Netherlands) which became a focus of research into ethnic and socioeconomic factors. His pioneering study, ‘The Timor Problem, a Geographical Interpretation of an underdeveloped island’, not only gained him a Doctorate of Social Sciences from the University of Indonesia, but, on publication, it became a best-seller.

By the end of his 20-year Indonesian sojourn in 1955 he had demonstrated unequivocally his intellectual abilities in geography and mapping, his facility for organisation and leadership and his capacity for work. He had also developed a deep understanding of the people of developing countries and their problems.

His return home, at the age of only 43, was to herald a new phase in his life.

Having joined J.B. Wolters of Groningen, his major work would lie within cartography, especially the modernisation of their main atlas products.

Until 1963 he was fully employed by the company but continued thereafter as an expert consultant. He not only edited nine editions of the Grote Bosatlas and six editions of the Kleene Bosatlas but oversaw major changes in level of collaboration between users (teachers) and producers, in map style, content and design, as well as in improvements in effectiveness and economy of production. However, in parallel with these outstanding achievements he would also begin to develop (in his ‘spare time’!) his facility to motivate colleagues and stimulate links within geography and mapping, at home and abroad. The first result was a new Cartographic Section in the Royal Netherlands Geographical Society (which he chaired until 1968) and he also helped consolidate the many cartographic groups within the Netherlands into The Dutch Cartographic Society in 1975. He became the first President (1967–71) of the new enlarged Royal Netherlands Geographical Society (now incorporating many small geographical associations).

Between 1967 and 1984 he was a major representative of both the Netherlands and the ICA on the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names and chaired the Working Group on Education and Training in Toponymy.

Although his atlas consultancy work continued after departure from Wolters, he was appointed in 1964 as Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Amsterdam and established a Research Institute in the subject. In 1971 he was appointed Professor at ITC following the Institute’s transfer from Delft to Enschede. There he established and became Head of the new Department of Cartography.

He had already noted the demise of traditional cartography with the rise of the quantitative revolution in Geography in the 1960s and ensured that the new ITC department was fully equipped with the latest computer facilities.

During his early years with Wolters, Ormeling (with Cornelius Koeman) led key discussions about the proposed establishment of the ICA, which eventually took place in Bern in 1959. He was a firm supporter of its founding principles which emerged during the first five years under Eduard Imhof’s presidency, and enthusiastically accepted election to the position of Secretary/Treasurer at the London/Edinburgh Conference and General Assembly (1964). The next technical conference took place three years later in Amsterdam under his directorship and is believed to have established a new informal and friendly family atmosphere which would become commonplace at future events. His pro-active and energetic 12-year support of Presidents Thackwell, Salitchtchev and Robinson is now legendary, supported most generously by ITC. He was elected President in Moscow (1976) and proceeded through two strong terms, ably supported by Olof Hedbom as Secretary/Treasurer, ending in Perth, Australia in 1984. At his final Conference/General Assembly in Morelia he presented his personal record of ICA entitled ‘ICA 1959–1984: The First Twenty-five Years of the International Cartographic Association’. His own 20-year period as a senior office-holder saw the introduction of many significant changes, relating to Commissions, Working Groups, statutes, etc.

A special example was the establishment of a medal for ICA’s highest distinction in recognition of the Swedish initiator of the ICA, Carl Mannerfelt. His personal experience of working for ICA was also memorable, punctuated by such as travel mishaps, a near fatal car crash in West Africa and a scary encounter (accompanied by John Bartholomew) in the bullring at the Madrid Conference of 1974!

Not surprisingly Ormeling has a long and distinguished list of publications extending from his Doctoral Thesis. It includes papers, books and atlases and echoes the many changes which have taken place during these turbulent years of cartography in the second half of the twentieth century. His retirement years were only slightly less busy than before as he continued to research, publish and accept speaking engagements.

His own lifetime of achievement has been awarded on many occasions, examples being Honorary Membership of the Dutch Cartographic Society, Membre d’Honneur de la Societé de Géographie de France, Honorary Fellowships of the Australian Institute of Cartographers, The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, The Polish Geographical Society, and the ITC itself, The British Cartographic Society Medal and, in 1987, the Carl Mannerfelt Medal. In 1978 he was appointed ‘Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion’ by the Queen of the Netherlands.

Although he missed the first ICA General Assembly in Paris, 1961 through work, he attended every other Technical Conference and General Assembly between 1962 and 1987, and continued as a regular visitor at ICA after his official responsibilities came to an end. He was, sadly, unable to attend the ICC 2001 in Beijing, China, but love and respect radiated from the international audience at the opening ceremony when he sent his video greeting. His passing has undoubtedly left a painful gulf in the lives of many, especially his dear wife, Rini (often described as the ‘Queen of ICA’ for her own outstanding support for him and our Association), and the children Piet, Hein, Ferjan, Ina, and Erik, Sonja and Roger. Apart from his great circle of ICA friends the other special people who will always treasure his memory are his students in the Netherlands and across the World. However our friend and colleague Fer Ormeling has left much more than a memory. This was a truly charismatic man, described by friends as ‘a demanding organiser’, ‘a fascinating speaker and entertainer’, and ‘a talented linguist… with a good sense of humour’.

This writer will always remember the warmth of his company, his ever-present smile and the twinkle in his eye. A fundamental law of physics states that energy cannot be destroyed, only changed in form. The energy released by Ferdinand J. Ormeling during his dynamic life of creativity, guidance and leadership, is thus still active within people and organisations throughout the world today. His was a life that truly made a difference.

M. Wood


Acknowledgements: Hedbom, O, Bohme, R, 1989, ‘Ferdinand J Ormeling: a Biography’, in ‘Cartography, Past, Present and Future’, Rhind, D W, and Taylor, D R F, Eds. Elsevier, 1989.

Category: General News

Olof W. Hedbom (1920–2001)

Olof W. Hedbom

Olof W. Hedbom

On July 4 our good friend Olof W. Hedbom died of a rapidly spreading cancer.

The cartographic community will remember him as a prominent representative with an outstanding record of service. On national level Hedbom made a career as cartographic designer and atlas editor. He rose from the rank of draughtsman engaged with the Litografiska Anstalt Esselte to general manager of the map publishing firm Liber Kartor. Continually Olof maintained fruitful relations with geographers who knew how to appreciate his ability to visualize terrestrial phenomena. At an advanced age he made himself familiar – reluctantly but with success – with computer mapping. He leaves behind an impressive series of atlases, predominantly educational, most of them excelling in clarity and legibility.

In his thirties Olof participated in the so called Esselte Conference on Applied Cartography held in Sweden in 1956 which laid the foundation of an International Cartographic Association (ICA) in which he himself would later play an important role. He served the Association in the successive capacities of Vice-President (1972–1976) and Secretary-Treasurer (1976–1984). During these years I had the pleasure of visiting many countries together with Olof to discuss a diversity of ICA-questions among which membership and subscription problems, conference and seminar venues. As certain countries in those days refused visa to conference participants for political reasons sometimes tricky affairs had to be solved. Our frequent contacts led to good relations between our families. Repeatedly Olof was a welcome guest in our home in Holland.

His knowledge of the historical background and economic situation of the visited countries facilitated contacts. His remarks often spiced with humour moved people to abandon their reservations. He displayed his faculties on many occasions in a variety of now and then critical circumstances.

Getting acquainted with the Chinese Association of Geodesy and Cartography. Secretary Hedbom serving Peking duck, Peking, 22 January 1979.

Getting acquainted with the Chinese Association of Geodesy and Cartography. Secretary Hedbom serving Peking duck, Peking, 22 January 1979.

So I remember our first contact with the Chinese in the 1970’s to discuss their possible ICA membership when Olof animated a formal dinner by serving Peking Duck, their favourite dish, to our hosts. Not to forget our visit in 1981 to Poland where Martial Law was proclaimed and where we succeeded to safeguard the planned conference in Warsaw.

In recognition of his merits the General Assembly of the ICA presented him in 1989 with the Honorary Membership.

Finally we wish his dear sister Ingegerd and his children Lars, Ulrika and Ann-Sofie, who together took care of him until the bitter end, strength to bear and overcome their loss.

My wife and I will always remember Olof’s warm friendship!

F. J. Ormeling Sen.

Further reading: Honorary Fellowship for Olof Hedbom

Category: General News

Harold Fullard (1915–2001)

Harold Fullard and Roger Anson, Outgoing and Incoming Chairman of the Publications Committee in City dress.

Harold Fullard and Roger Anson, Outgoing and Incoming Chairman of the Publications Committee in City dress.

On February 1 2001 our colleague and friend Harold Fullard suddenly passed away.

He died from a heart attack in his beloved garden in Birkhampsted, Berkshire. Harold was born on 23 April 1915 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He read geography and anthropology at the University of Manchester and graduated in 1936. Equipped with this luggage he entered into the service of Publishers George Philip & Son, London, where he specialised in atlas cartography.

The war years inevitably interrupted this activity. Serving in the Royal Engineers Survey he was engaged in the mapping of Normandy and the Low Countries. In 1944 he was posted to India, then Ceylon and Singapore. He returned to Philip in 1946, where he climbed the ladder from geographical assistant to Director and Cartographic Editor in Chief. He retired officially in 1980 and continued to serve George Philip as consultant cartographer. During his career he prepared, edited and supervised the production of over 130 atlases, predominantly educational, covering many countries and most of them excelling in clarity and legibility. They were used by millions of people in schools, libraries and offices all over the world. In doing so, he became a man of international repute, whether modest Harold liked it or not!

Throughout his busy career he still made time for contributions to cartography in general. He was a founder member of the British Cartographic Society, was treasurer and council member from 1963–68,Vice-President in 1969, and President in 1970.

In addition, he was actively involved in the International Cartographic Association (ICA) from its foundation in the 1950’s. It will be obvious that his experience in international cartography proved to be extremely valuable for the consolidation and growth of the Association. He missed no Conference and by his lectures and writings he contributed to its prestige. For years he served as chairman of the ICA Publications Committee that he moulded into shape by revising its guidelines. During his chairmanship no less than 10 books, written by cartographers of diverging backgrounds and most of them drastically edited by Fullard, were added to the list of ICA Publications. The Seventh General Assembly of the Association, held in Perth, Australia in 1984, presented him with the Honorary Fellowship. On the national level the Royal Society presented him with the Murchison Award for his contribution to educational cartography.

Finally, in recognition of his many merits he was awarded an OBE in the 1980’s,after his retirement. We express our gratitude for all that Harold stood for and brought about and passed on to others. Finally we wish his dear wife Nancy, her two sons and daughter courage and strength to bear and overcome their loss.

F. J. Ormeling Snr.

Further reading: Honorary Fellowship for Harold Fullard

Category: General News

Richard E. Dahlberg (1928–1996)

1997-dahlbergSince the ICA conference in Morelia in 1987, the Commission on Education and Training has operated under joint command – that of Richard Dahlberg and myself. This came suddenly to an end last December when Richard died aged 68. He had been ill since last August when, all set for joining the joint ICA commissions seminar in Santiago de Chile, he was hospitalized for what seemed to be an ulcer. At the hospital it proved to be a malign tumor. Still, the outlook was mildly favourable at first, and we made plans for a meeting at the forthcoming ICA conference in Stockholm. This was not to be, as his situation suddenly deteriorated, with this tragic result on December 15 1996.

Richard was born in Erie, on Lake Erie, in 1928 and during his military training was able to follow courses in geography at George Washington University where he got his BA degree. This was followed up later in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he took his M.A. and with a PhD in geography at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After graduating, together with his wife Patricia he took up teaching posts in Los Angeles, and Syracuse and finally he became chair of the Geography Department at the University of Northern Illinois in DeKalb. There he organized one of the more important MSc cartography programmes in the United States (and almost succeeded in adding a PhD programme) as well as the NIU Lab for Cartography and Spatial Analysis. Richard became the foremost publicist on cartographic education programmes in the United States, advocating a stronger cooperation between the sister sciences in the surveying and mapping field, especially between remote sensing and cartography. So he was the natural choice to represent the US in CET from its early days: Richard succeeded Brice Burroughs as such in 1972.

We first met that year in a train entering the German Democratic Republic. Patricia and Richard were having discus­sions with the local border guards about their visas. We were on our way to Weimar in order to discuss the contributions to the Basic Cartography manual CET was producing. Richard was an active member of the commission and had an important part in the Wuhan Seminar on Advanced Cartographic Education and Training (SACET) in 1986. Patricia who was actively participating in the Chinese-American association at NIU and who had hosted a Chinese family was able to join him as well. Those careless days at the WTUSM in Wuhan, where the foreign lecturers had their meals together, as a group participated in rock concerts and in motorized trips to visit the panda in Wuhan zoo now seem very remote indeed.

As we had cooperated well in the production of the exercise manual that was to accompany the Basic Cartography Series as well as in other CET projects, it was a logical step to jointly succeed Karl-Heinz Meine the next year when he stepped down as chair of CET in Morelia in 1987.

From 1987 onwards, Richard co-organized (joint ICA commissions-or) CET seminars in Munich (1988), Enschede (1989), Budapest (1989), Bangkok (1991), College Park (1992), Chicago (1993), Visegrad (1993), Bangkok (1994), Istanbul (1994) and Madrid (1995). He continued his support of CET despite his heavy involvement in the American Cartographic Association, as editor of the American Cartographer/Cartography and GIS, and as member of the board and President of ACSM. Counting Yogyakarta (1984) as well, Santiago would have been his 16th CET seminar, not connected to any regular ICA conference.

Richard’s contribution was especially important in the theoretical field. It was he who decided on the theoretical issues to be tackled, and who compiled the relevant texts in the correct terminology. He also had the necessary contacts with representatives of the sister sciences, essential for Basic Cartography volume 3, and who could convene a representative selection of those representatives in order to discuss basic concepts in the surveying and mapping field. We were to have held a follow-up seminar on this issue to commemorate his retirement, last year in DeKalb, but we left it until too late. It would have been a fitting tribute.

Richard lived for teaching. He spent a large amount of time preparing his lectures, even during the seminars – CET members will remember Richard sitting in “his” study (requisitioned from one of the directors), at the Land Development Department in Bangkok, putting the finishing touches to the lectures he presented there. The FIPSE exchange students from my university in Utrecht that spent semesters in DeKalb were all enthusiastic about Richard’s lectures and his support. At the end of last December one of them graduated, and as I handed her diploma she talked again about her time in DeKalb. I did not have the heart to spoil her day and tell her Richard had just died.

Despite an increasing deafness that bothered him a bit in his work and the heavy investments in time required by the fact that his Dean assigned him some new teaching tasks the last year before his retirement, Richard kept making time for CET’s activities. Even when he had to decline to join us for our next seminar in Gifu, Japan, I knew he would be there when really needed. Richard Dahlberg is already sorely missed.

Ferjan Ormeling


I first met Dick Dahlberg over 30 years ago. We both attended the Quantitative Institute in Geography, a six week workshop organised by Ned Taaffe at Ohio State University in Columbus in 1965. It was my first visit to the United States and shall never forget the way he subtly imparted information and gave me advice on the American way of life. It was a real pleasure to work with him and to meet him again at many ICA conferences over the last 25 years. He was very positive and generous in spirit and will be sorely missed.

Chris Board

Category: General News
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Eduard Imhof (1895–1986)

Translation of article in Dutch in Kartografisch Tijdschrift, 1986, nr. 3 by F. J. Ormeling Sr.

Youth in Graubünden (Grisons)

Eduard Imhof in his studio in Erlenbach, Switzerland

Eduard Imhof in his studio in Erlenbach, Switzerland

Eduard Imhof was born on 25 January 1895 in Schiers, at the foot of the Ratikon in the centre of the impressive mountainous region of the Swiss Canton of Graubünden (Grisons). He was fortunate that he was born and grew up in a country that was not split by political polarisation, revolution or war, something exceptional for any European during the first half of the Twentieth Century, and so he was able to develop his talents without hindrance.

Events during his youth in Graubünden had a considerable influence on his career, if not determining it. His father, a geography teacher, ranked as one of the foremost authorities on the surrounding Bündner Mountains. Commissioned by the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC), he compiled travel guides for mountain tourists, guides which demanded careful field survey. Son Eduard, who appeared to possess an exceptional talent for drawing, was fascinated by his father’s work, and took part in his mountain expeditions from childhood, through which he became familiar with the then current 1:50 000 Siegfried map as well as with its imperfections. Sketch book and drawing materials became inseparable companions of the young mountain climber who, as a high school scholar from Zürich and later, as an undergraduate, helped Imhof Sr. with drawing. Following his father’s death, he even edited the SAC guide for the Ratikon mountain chain himself (1936). The thoroughness with which he worked is evident from the fact that he discovered 14 different routes for climbing the Schesaplana (2985 m.), the highest peak of the Ratikon, all of which were drawn in on a sketch map of that massif.

The pinnacle of Imhof’s career as an alpinist was formed during his years as an undergraduate. His operating range extended far outside Graubünden, way into the Bernese Oberland and Valais. Sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, he was away for weeks at a time, while Imhof Sr. took care of provisioning, supplies being left at previously agreed locations.

After becoming established as a professor and as a family man, the opportunities for mountain expeditions decreased. However, during official tours of duty and representative trips abroad, the passion of youth was re-kindled. In Turkey, where he was an advisor to the Topographical Survey, he climbed Mount Ararat. A cartographic conference in Chicago gave him the opportunity to travel through the Rocky Mountains. In China, he mapped the region of the Minya Konka (7590 m.). From Stockholm, where he was attending a geographers’ conference, he climbed Norway’s highest mountain, the Galdhoppig. An awe-inspiring collection of water colours, sketches and lithographs, demonstrate the artistic spin-off effect of his mountain trips. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, 1985, the SAC, an organisation within which he held office on several committees, and which had installed him as an honorary member, held an exhibition comprising 60 examples of his work in the Art Gallery of Steffisburg, nearby Thun. During the memorial service on 2 May 1986, in the Evangelical Church at Erlenbach, hometown of the deceased, the President of the SAC delivered the last honours.

Undoubtably, it must have been difficult for high school pupil Imhof to choose which field of study to follow: the academy of art or engineering. His art teacher was of the opinion that his terrain sketches were “too topographical, too scientific, insufficiently artistically minded”. His later teacher of topography, Professor Fridlin Becker, whom he worshipped, considered his sketches as “too artistic, insufficiently topographic”. Finally, the decision was made in favour of studying geodesy at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, and it will not be surprising that, partly under the influence of Professor Becker, himself a zealous promoter of relief representation, he specialised in mountain topography and cartography, a subject in which he found it possible to direct his talents towards a single goal. Further, studying at the ETH provided him with an extremely useful basic knowledge of geography, which, in later years as an atlas editor, gained so much depth that geographers regarded him as one of their own. From 1936 to 1939, he was President of the United Swiss Geographic Societies.

In 1919, Imhof received his degree in engineering and was appointed as an ETH assistant, responsible for giving practical geodesy lessons to architectural, civil engineering and geodesy students. Three years later, as a result of Professor Becker having fallen ill, (he died in 1923), he was commissioned to deputise for him, taking over the full teaching load of his subject area. This was followed in 1925 by his being appointed associate professor (later turned into a full chair) in topography as well as surveying and map drawing. In that same year, with the support of the ETH, he founded the Cartographic Institute on the top floor of the Geodesy building without much fuss or ceremony, the first academic cartographic training and research institute in the world. In the beginning, this new creation, which he would head for 40 years until his retirement, spatially, did not have much flesh on the bone. Even during the early Fifties, it only had a single professor, one assistant, 3 rooms and an annual budget of 200 Swiss francs at its disposal. However, under Imhof’s leadership, the institute developed into the authoritative focal point of cartography, an institute which an increasing number of foreign colleagues visited, curious about Imhof’s success. In order to canalise this growing interest, he organised international Advanced Courses in 1957 and 1960 in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Office of Topography, in which groups of 20 persons took part, in the main, foreign cartographers holding leading positions in their own country, while the host, as head teacher, took care of the lion’s share of the lecturing. It will be obvious, that these participants ensured the worldwide spread of his name and fame.

Imhof, the Teacher

As a teacher, Imhof was held in high esteem. His successor, Professor Ernst Spiess, voicing the feelings of two generations of students during the memorial service held on 2 May 1986, praised his didactional talents. The engineers remembered his practical exercises, in which he tried to bring home the principles of orderly technical drawing, and of graphic and aesthetic clarity. The cartographers remembered how they used to work together in small groups, drawing and discussing and through the medium of maps and slides, became aware of the essence of the discipline, cartographic design: the interplay of graphic elements. Both groups of former pupils could remember ImhoFs lucid manner of speaking, his total rejection of high-flown wording, written or oral. Several of his forceful expressions are firmly etched in the memory: “Those who want to make maps have got to learn first” or “Making maps does not begin with a computer, but with sharpening the end of a pencil”. Then, of course, one remembers his didactical trickery, when he exhibited good and bad solutions side by side, or demonstrated graphic enormities, as well as his charm and ease in producing drawings of rock formations as if by magic using chalk or pencil.

Cartographic Design

A review of Imhof’s whole cartographic work establishes the fact that he was intensely occupied with all aspects of cartographic design: symbolisation, generalisation, use of colour, position of text, relief representation, and so on. Starting from the principle that the core of cartography was responsible graphic presentation, he strived to achieve a system of simple symbolisation and lettering. He laid down rules for the application of geometric and figurative symbols and for the use of colour. He designed a special group of stylised symbols for those minor, and often neglected relief features such as moraines, small hills, or holes characteristic of limestone topography, that can upset the earth’s surface in such a significant manner. He made a study of the generalisation concerning different forms of human settlements, and was the first person to analyse the various aspects of cartographic lettering, for which he laid down certain rules of application. Repeatedly, he pointed out the necessity for a reasonable combination of graphic elements, to attune the content of the map to its scale – and to the needs of the user. “No map can show everything” He battled against overloading the map’s image and the degeneration of its contents (tourist information and the cattle fodder industry on one and the same map!), the prevention of which was a geographic as well as a graphic responsibility. Using the principle “Less often means more”, he advised cartographers to delete all those items which did not make any significant contribution to the map, but only served to clutter it up. Besides this, his concern was in reaching the map user. In fact, his first major publication Gelände und Karte (1950), sponsored by the armed forces, was aimed at raising the level of observations in the field, together with the closely allied reading and interpretation of maps, an exercise which fitted the alpinist and reserve artillery man Imhof like a glove.

Relief Representation

There is no other area in which Imhof s influence had such far reaching consequences than that of relief representation. His name remains associated with that particular system which is known throughout the world as the “Swiss Manner”, a title which is not particularly popular in Switzerland itself, as the word “Manner” reeks of affectation. What we understand under the title “Swiss Manner”, is the method of relief, or hill shading using oblique illumination for the upper left-hand side, with perspective hypsometric tints. Applying this method and further enhancing it by contour lines, rock drawings – one of the most striking aspects – and minor land form symbols, Imhof created an illusion of unequalled three-dimensionality. He fiercely dismissed all other methods, such as hill shading, with vertical illumination on the principle “the steeper, the darker”. As far as altitude tinting was concerned, he dismissed all the existing colour scales which incorporated the system of “the higher, the lighter” or “the higher, the darker”, and also the much used variant running from green through light green, to yellow and brown, and on to red-brown. Similarly, he disassociated himself from the theories put forward by the Austrian cartographer Peucker, whose opinion was, that colour variations conjour up a stereoscopic effect. Imhof’s aerial perspective hypsometric tints are based upon the experience that in normal vision nearby landscape colours are brighter than those further away. Looking down from a great height, the lower regions appear to be grey-blue, the hills and middle ranges from blue-green to green and yellow-green, while the mountainous regions are yellow and light yellow, with the peaks emerging as white.

The adage that “easy reading is hard writing” is, also applicable to cartography. Admirers of Imhof’s relief presentation know that his success was the result of years of experimentation. The first occasion that he applied the oblique illumination technique, was in the Twenties, on wall maps of various cantons for educational purposes. From 1932, this method was also applied to some of the maps in the Schweizerische Mittelschulatlas (Swiss High School Atlas), of which he had been editor since 1927. During the ensuing years, the method was further developed graphically. It was refined, and reproduction and printing techniques were tried out on several sorts of maps in the Mittelschulatlas which thus served as an experimental nursery. The breakthrough came in 1962. In the 13th edition, the new methods were integrally applied to all the maps, including those of small scale.

Thanks to its penetrating graphic effect, this new relief presentation was well received, both in Switzerland and abroad, not only in cartographic circles, but also in the teaching profession, despite the fact that there were objections to the dark grey-blue low lands. The “Swiss Manner” added considerable weight to the image of Swiss cartography, which was already held in high esteem. In the Netherlands, the rather critical cartographer Jan Schokkenkamp, with a wealth of experience behind him, working for Shell, called the Mittelschulatlas a “beautiful piece of mapping, a masterpiece of cartographic art and reproduction techniques”. In his own country, Imhof managed to persuade the Federal Office of Topography to publish alternative versions with hill shading of the new topographic map series 1:25 000 and 1:50 000, the production of which was established upon his instigation in the 1935 Federal Mapping Act. In practice these sheets eventually proved most popular with the users. Topographical services in other countries followed this example, despite the fact that this laborious system of hill shading was often felt to be a heavy work load. In atlas cartography, the Imhofian system of relief presentation sounded the death knell for the traditional hachuring methods. One after another, publishers of atlases switched over to shading mountain slopes with oblique illumination, with varying success to be sure, as in this sector, it was also impossible to pluck talented shading artists out of the blue. Imhof himself, who in the 1960’s was the editor responsible for the Mittelschulatlas, the Sekundarschulatlas as well as the Atlas der Schweiz (National Atlas of Switzerland), also had his hands full. In order to broaden his range, he recruited a group of promising young cartographers, taught them the new shading technique and, under his supervision, turned them loose on the various projects on hand in his studio in Erlenbach. Taking into consideration how the later careers of these shading artists blossomed, it can be established that their labour as wage earners with Imhof, was well worth their while. In 1965, as a conclusion to the operation, Imhof’s authoritative book Kartographische Geländedarstellung (Cartographic Relief Presentation) presented a theoretically warranted justification of the “Swiss Manner”, methods for its application, and a thorough analysis of all previously used methods of relief representation and altitude tinting. This work received high praise from the professional community. Representative of this eulogy, was the literary review by Dr. Fritz Holzel, the German hill shader par excellence, who wrote: “It is not a publication produced by an abstract scientist, but that of a human being, whose humour, and occasional waggish criticism, quickly brings about contact between author and reader”.

Thematic Cartography

As is well known, as a result of a changing viewpoint in the teaching of geography during the years 1950-1960, it became apparent that there was an increasing need for thematic maps. The Mittelschulatlas could not escape this phenomenon either. This resulted in the editor Imhof having to pay increasing attention to the taxonomy and composition of these types of maps. At that time, this was an unexplored area, but one however, with which Imhof had been brought into contact as a contributor to the Atlas zur Geschichte des Kantons Zürich, 1951 (Atlas of the History of the Canton of Zürich). It is obvious, that thematic cartography, an area in which there were few rules and, often as not, a multitude of solutions, provided fertile ground for the graphically gifted Imhof. It is evident, from the rapid growth in the thematic map section of the Mittelschulatlas, that he made full use of the chances. In the same way in which he conquered the field of relief depiction, he compiled the findings of his struggle with thematic subject matter in a book. In 1972, his third major work, Thematische Kartographie (Thematic Cartography) was published. Despite the fact that it was announced as a “simple and concise textbook”, it is predominantly a personal view of the complex subject matter of thematic cartography. The author proposes that the field should be divided up according to graphic structural types, such as isoline maps, dot maps, flow maps, etc. instead of by map themes, which may be unlimited. According to Imhof, this structural approach should form the core of the science of thematic cartography, because only on this basis, is it possible to build up a clearly structured methodology. Although the book had all the allure of a pioneering work and its division into structural types was generally accepted, it was however, less enthusiastically received than Kartographische Geländedarstellung. In the periodical Kartographische Nachrichten (FRG) it was even subjected to – a cool criticism, which caused consternation among the German speaking disciples of the Grand Master.

Atlas der Schweiz

The whole range of Imhof’s graphic talents was revealed in the Atlas der Schweiz, the National Atlas of Switzerland, for which the Federal Council gave the green light in 1961, after much insistence from the master himself. At the age of 67, Imhof accepted the appointment as manager of this voluminous project, becoming Chairman of the editorial committee as well as Editor in Chief. The realisation of all this work was published in 12 instalments, spanning a period of 17 years. Upon its completion, in 1978, the National Atlas comprised approximately 500 maps based upon the latest research and statistics, together with profiles, diagrams, tables and an explanatory text in three languages. In total, approximately 140 experts from different disciplines worked on the project with whom Imhof was in close contact. According to Spiess, he led the operation with supreme authority. He succeeded in inspiring his colleagues, brought them to a “common denominator” and, when necessary, got them to bend to his will. The graphic composition and didactical presentation in all parts of the atlas betrayed the hand of the master and, as such, it became his Magnum Opus. The atlas was enthusiastically received throughout the professional world. Although it is hardly possible to make comparisons with other national atlases, each bearing its own particular stamp, the majority opinion was, that the Swiss Atlas was a world leader for its graphic composition, didactical presentation and technical cartographic quality. Naturally, there was criticism as well, particularly regarding the large number of analytical maps and the limited range of synthetic maps as well as the lack of problem-orientated chapters. This does not remove the fact, that during its period of publication, interest in the atlas increased to such a degree that the print run for instalments was raised from 4500 to 6000 copies.

Imhof and the ICA

Due to his authorative international standing, Imhof was predestined to play a role in international association life. Since the mid-fifties, he took part in discussions with German and French colleagues concerning a suggestion made by the Swedish cartographer, Carl Mannerfelt, whose idea it was to found an international cartographic society, a plan which did not meet with much sympathy from geographers and photogrammetrists. Gradually, Imhof’s part in these discussions grew, and finally, he had a decisive influence. Together with Mannerfelt, he managed to persuade the sister organisations that cartographers had their own specific problem area and a right to form a separate organisation. The International Cartographic Association (ICA) was founded in Bern in 1959 with Imhof as its first president. Two years later, acting as a charming host, he presided over the first General Assembly of delegates in Paris, where the statutes of the Association were approved. In the years to come, he and Mannerfelt tactfully promoted the entry into the ICA of the Eastbloc countries. Although the Swiss are above suspicion as far as their democratic attitude is concerned, during the unsure early years of the young Association, in which swift decisions had to be taken, the first President showed sufficient authority to ensure its consolidation. At meetings the set limits he allowed for discussion – were the words “Discussion opened” and “Discussion closed” following each other in quick succession – will remain firmly imprinted in the memory. In appreciation of his pioneering work, the ICA awarded its first president with their highest distinction, the Mannerfelt medal. The author was privileged to pay the final honours to the deceased on behalf of the ICA during the funeral service held at Erlenbach.


The impact that Imhof has had on cartography, is based on the combination of scientific sense, artistic talent and technical proficiency, something that is rarely found in a single person. Through this combination, his horizon was broader and he had a better overview of the whole subject than most of his colleagues. In addition, these qualities were combined with a fighting spirit, often disguised by a disarmingly gentle approach, by which he was able to achieve much more for cartography then would have been possible for most others. In appreciation of his work, he was inundated with honorary memberships and distinctions, including an Honorary Doctorate bestowed by the University of Zürich, major geographic medals (David Livingstone, Martin Behaim and Alexander von Humboldt) and he was made a Freeman of Erlenbach.

Some have misleadingly called Imhof the “Rembrandt of Cartography”, thereby giving the impression that map making is an artistic occupation, an indefensible idea, and one that Imhof also firmly rejected, although he liked to juggle with expressions such as “Mapping artist” and “the Beauty of Maps”. After all, art – as he put it – demands freedom of expression, a demand which maps, inexorably fixed to geometric or statistical basic data, or to standard colour symbols, could never be able to satisfy. However, it can be said that to optimise the quality of cartographic representation, it is desirable to have the assistance of a well trained, perhaps artistically minded, graphic artist at one’s disposal.

Imhof could look back on a rich and fulfilling life, surrounded by friends, dedicated students and former pupils, as well as silent admirers. His robust health made it possible for him to remain active to a ripe old age. At the age of 82, he finished the Swiss Atlas; as an 85 year old, he put the finishing touches to an impressive 1:200 000 relief map of Switzerland and, shortly before his death, he wrote the article Glanz und Elend der Kartographie (Glory and misery of Cartography) that was published, posthumously, in the 1986 International Yearbook of Cartography, a publication which he initiated in 1961. It remains for us to express our gratitude for all that Imhof stood for, brought about, and passed on to us all. The best way of paying tribute to his memory, is to hand on his theories and rules to those, who are now on the threshold of the computer age and who will be able to use them to combat the limitations of electronic image formation.

Further reading: Eduard Imhof Exhibition at the 50th birthday celebration of the ICA (with photo gallery)

Category: General News

Erwin Gigas (1899–1976)

Erwin Gigas

Erwin Gigas

Professor Dr. Ing. Erwin Gigas was one of the promoters of the International Cartographic Association and its first Secretary-Treasurer. At the beginning of his professional career he was mainly concerned with geodesy. In 1928 he joined the Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme, the then central organisation for surveying and mapping in Germany. He became one of the outstanding specialists in trigonometrical surveys and during the first years after World War II he became widely known for his contribution to the unification of the various national European triangulation networks into one European system. But Gigas’ genius was wide-ranging; he was one of the last Universal Men. He did not limit himself to geodesy; his interests also embraced photogrammetry, cartography and even reproduction. In the second half of his life, his involvement in international cooperation and the problems of developing countries became dominant. In 1952 he was appointed Director of the Institut für Angewandte Geodäsie (Institute of Applied Geodesy) in Frankfurt am Main. In this position he succeeded in transforming the institute into a Federal Office.

His international contacts started in 1955, when he represented his country at the first United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Far East in Mussoorie (India). When the discussion on international cooperation in the field of cartography proper was initiated by Dr. Mannerfelt in 1956, Gigas became one of the most active supporters. He was elected a member of the so-called Committee of Six, with Dr. Mannerfelt as chairman. Subsequent conferences at Evanston, Chicago (USA) and at Mainz (FRG), both in 1958, pointed the way, increasingly clearly and convincingly, to the eventual formation of the ICA in Bern in 1959. Thus, the ICA was born. At its first General Assembly of Delegates in Paris in 1961 Professor Gigas was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the young Association with Professor Imhof as President.

One year later the United Nations convened the UN Technical Conference on the International Map of the World 1:1 000 000 (IMW) at Bonn it was the first UN conference held in the Federal Republic of Germany. Gigas was elected President of the conference, which elaborated new specifications for the compilation of the IMW, still valid today. In the same year Prof. Gigas organised the First Technical Conference of the ICA in his institute in Frankfurt am Main. At the ICA conference in London/Edinburgh (1964), both Imhof and Gigas retired from their ICA duties. They were succeeded by Brigadier Thackwell (UK) and Dr. Ormeling (Netherlands) respectively. Thus, after the foundation period of the ICA as an international non-governmental organisation, a period of consolidation began, making ICA the world-renowned association.

Parallel to his activities for ICA, Professor Gigas was in much demand as a specialist in seminars and conferences of the United Nations. Thus we find him at the UN seminar in Teheran (Iran) in 1957 and at the UN Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Far East in 1962 in Bangkok.

In 1964 Gigas retired as Director of the Institut für Angewandte Geodäsie, but no one was astonished that he remained very active. He had cultivated an interest in automation and after his retirement worked for two years with the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here he worked on automated procedures for data processing for the preparation and maintenance of aeronautical charts.

Many of his publications deal with cartography proper, with automation in cartography and with promoting cartography in developing countries. The last years of his life were spent in southern Spain, where he left the great family of cartographers in 1976.

Category: General News

Stéphane de Brommer (1905–1972)

Stéphane de Brommer

Stéphane de Brommer

Stéphane de Brommer was born in Paris on 23 February 1905. He attended grammar school in Bordeaux and was admitted to the famous Ecole Spéciale Militaire (Special Military School) of St-Cyr in 1925. He graduated in 1927 as an infantry officer and in 1931, upon his request, was transferred to the Service Géographique de l’Armée (Military Geographical Service), where he took part in topographical surveys in Provence and in Syria.

From the outset he demonstrated particular interest in reproduction and printing techniques and in 1933 he was appointed to the Cartographic Section of the Service Géographique. One year later he was put in charge of its Section of foreign relations. In 1940, when the Military Geographical Service was transformed into the civil Institut Géographique National (IGN), he was employed in the division of Geographic Engineers. For many years he directed with authority and competence the Reproduction and Printing Department of the Institute. In 1957 he was called to serve at Direction level, where he was responsible for dealing with problems related to cartography. In 1964 he was appointed Director of the Ecole Nationale des Sciences Géographiques of the IGN, a position that he held till his retirement in 1971.

Convinced of the good cause of mapping and its important function in modern society, he devoted much of his energy, enthusiasm and organisation talent to promoting national and international cooperation in cartography. He was one of the founder members of the International Cartographic Association, which he served as its Vice-President for eight years. As chairman of the Commission on Education (1964–1972) he succeeded in winning the financial support of UNESCO, which enabled him to do innovative work for the Association. The publications of the commission and its repeated presentations to plenary conference sessions considerably stimulated the growing awareness of the significance of a responsible education in cartography.

He was an indefatigable worker with great knowledge and experience in technical matters. As a good organiser, he managed to find time to attend courses on new developments in photography, reproduction and printing, adhering to the principle that it is necessary to have a full knowledge and understanding of the matter in question before one can delegate the work to others. Moreover, he was an excellent teacher. The students of the Ecole Nationale who were fortunate to have him as their guide, admired his teaching flare and appreciated the solid content of his lessons.

International relations played an important role in de Brommer’s life. He represented his country and the Association with style and tact. At the same time he was amiable and charming and with his fine sense of humour he was greatly liked. Participants of the UNESCO Seminars in the 1960’s have nostalgic memories of the social evenings organised by Madame and Stéphane de Brommer in their home in Avenue Emile Deschanel. Stéphane passed away on 15 December 1972, victim of a heart attack.

Category: General News