The First Law of Geography – Today’s Geo Inspiration

Ever now and then I look for inspiration when designing a model or writing some code to solve a geo-problem.  Recently, while searching for some geo-inspiration I came across one of my favorite papers.  If you have ever taken any type of  GIS or spatial analysis course you have probably heard some variation of the following phrase, commonly referred to as the First Law of Geography:

“Everything is related to everything else,
but near things are more related than distant things”

This idea, my friends, is what defines the field of geo-analysis.  From interpolation to distance decay, and spatial autocorrelation to gravity models, the idea that locations that are closer together are more related than those that are far apart provides the base for the field of geographic analysis.  Like any great quote, many may know it but few know it’s origins.  So, where did this phrase come from?  Here it is…

A Computer Movie Simulating Urban Growth in the Detroit Region
W. R. Tobler
Economic Geography
Vol. 46, Supplement: Proceedings. International Geographical Union. Commission on Quantitative Methods (Jun., 1970), pp. 234-240

Waldo Tobler is very well known geographer (he has his own Wikipedia page!) and if you have ever taken a geography or GIS course at some point the professor probably referred to his work, either directly or indirectly.  A copy of the paper is available here and a reply to the First Law of Geography can be found here.  If you are in the learning mood both are quick reads.