On March 22, 2022, the world lost a GIS giant and cartography compadre when Dr. E. Lynn Usery, current Chair of the ICA Commission on Map Projections and former ICA Vice-President, passed from this earthly plane. Not even a week earlier, Lynn was busily planning workshops for AutoCarto 2022. He will be sorely missed by ICA and our community, not only for his many research contributions, leadership and vision, and tireless service, but also for his friendship and camaraderie.
Michael Tischler of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) wrote, “On paper, we knew him as the Director of the Center of Excellence for Geographic Information Science [CEGIS]. But he was far more than that title would lead one to believe. Lynn leaves a remarkable legacy given his extraordinary scientific accomplishments, presence as a leader in the geographic science community, and impact on individual geographic scientists inside USGS and around the world.”
It’s a challenge to specify the impact that Lynn has had on the field of GIScience because of the breadth and depth of his involvement and contributions. He was centrally involved in many areas of the discipline, including cartography, GIS, remote sensing, and spatial analysis. His eclectic research interests included digital cartography, map projections, scale and resolution, image classification, temporal GIS, geospatial semantics and ontology, and high-performance computing for geospatial data. It would be difficult to name a subject in our field about which Lynn could not speak knowledgably and insightfully.
Lynn was unique in that his impact came through his careers in both government and academia. Lynn started working for the USGS in 1977. He was a cartographer and geographer for the USGS from 1978 to 1988 focusing on developing automated cartographic production systems. In 1988, he took on a geography faculty position at the University of Wisconsin (UW) – Madison. In January of 1994, he moved to Georgia to serve on the geography faculty at the University of Georgia (UGA). In May of 1999, Lynn took on a Research Geographer position with the USGS in addition to his academic job at UGA. In 2005, he returned to USGS and ultimately conceived and became Director of CEGIS. In this role, he directed the science program and the visions and plans for topographic mapping research. While at USGS, Lynn also taught remote sensing at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
In all his positions, Lynn was a ground breaker. In his early days at USGS, he began the development of digital mapping systems for the automated production of printed topographic maps. At UW, he helped found a GIS program. At UGA, he helped establish certificate programs in GIScience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. When he returned to USGS, he started a cartography research program that led to CEGIS. For CaGIS, he chaired AutoCarto 2005 to close an eight-year gap and resurrect the symposium series. He also spearheaded the effort to bring the International Cartographic Conference back to the United States for only the second time, the first being in 1978.
Lynn was involved in multiple activities of the ICA:
- 2004–2008 US National Committee to the ICA member
- 2007–2011 ICA Map Projections Commission Secretary
- 2007–2015 US National Committee to the ICA Chair
- 2011–2012 ICA Technology Outreach Working Group Chair
- 2011–2015 ICA Map Projections Commission Vice Chair
- 2011 Bid for ICC 2017
- 2012–2017 ICC 2017 Conference Organizer
- 2015–2019 ICA Vice President
- 2018–2019 ICA Body of Knowledge for Cartography Working Group Chair
- 2019–2022 ICA Map Projections Commission Chair
That Lynn was so involved in the association is admirable. That he did the same with many other societies, at the same time, makes Lynn exceptional and unparalleled. There is truly no match for him in this regard, and really not even anyone in the running. No other person has been elected vice-president of the ICA, president of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS), president of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), and president of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS), as Lynn was in 2015, 2002, 2004, and 2015, respectively. Additionally, as with the ICA, in all these associations, he also served in other roles.
On a personal note, Lynn was born in December 1951. He had two children, a son Kelynn, born 1986, and a daughter, Lacy, born 1988. Lynn received his BS in geography from the University of Alabama and MA and Ph.D. degrees in geography from UGA. He died Tuesday, March 22, 2022, after a brief illness.
Tim Trainor, President of ICA &
Aileen Buckley, U.S. national representative to ICA