GIS Fundamentals: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

GIS Fundamentals

2nd Edition

By Stephen Wise

CRC Press

338 pages | 218 B/W Illus.

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With GIS technology increasingly available to a wider audience on devices from apps on smartphones to satnavs in cars, many people routinely use spatial data in a way which used to be the preserve of GIS specialists. However spatial data is stored and analyzed on a computer still tends to be described in academic texts and articles which require specialist knowledge or some training in computer science. Developed to introduce computer science literature to geography students, GIS Fundamentals, Second Edition provides an accessible examination of the underlying principles for anyone with no formal training in computer science.

See What’s New in the Second Edition:

  • Coverage of the use of spatial data on the Internet
  • Chapters on databases and on searching large databases for spatial queries
  • Improved coverage on route-finding
  • Improved coverage of heuristic approaches to solving real-world spatial problems
  • International standards for spatial data

The book begins with a brief but detailed introduction to how computers work and how they are programmed, giving anyone with no previous computer science background a foundation to understand the remainder of the book. As with all parts of the book there are also suggestions for further sources of reading. The book then describes the ways in which vector and raster data can be stored and how algorithms are designed to perform fundamental operations such as detecting where lines intersect. From these simple beginnings the book moves into the more complex structures used for handling surfaces and networks and contains a detailed account of what it takes to determine the shortest route between two places on a network. The final sections of the book review problems, such as the "Travelling Salesman" problem, which are so complex that it is not known whether an optimum solution exists.

Using clear, concise language, but without sacrificing technical rigour, the book gives readers an understanding of what it takes to produce systems which allow them to find out where to make their next purchase and how to drive to the right place to collect it.


"Steve Wise has produced a book that is a marvelous complement to GIS courses, taking the reader on an excursion back to the fundamentals of spatial representation. Vectors, rasters, surfaces and networks are explained in depth and enrich the study of GIS to the point where students can progress their knowledge of the field to practical and professional applications."

––Michael Batty, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, UK

"After having had the pleasure of being reviewer of the first edition of the book, it is great to see the success continued in the second version. Given the transition from stand-alone GIS to a crucial component in the information infrastructure of today’s society, the extended coverage of data management in the new version is an important improvement. …the book gives clear insight into the Geo-ICT machinery to a much wider audience than just computer scientists."

––Peter van Oosterom, Delft University of Technology, South Holland, Netherlands

Clearly and engagingly written, and importantly free from unnecessary jargon, this text provides a helpful and well-considered overview of the ‘inside’ workings of GIS. This is a book for students and other GI users wishing to develop more than just good software skills by strengthening their knowledge and understanding of the science and technology that underpins GIS.

—Graham Smith, UNIGIS UK, Manchester Metropolitan University

Table of Contents


How Computers Solve Problems

How Computers Represent the World: Data Modelling

The Structure of a Computer

Pseudocode and Computer Programming

Further Reading


What Are Databases and Why Are They Important?

Relational Database

Storing Spatial Data in a Relational Database

Solutions to the Problems of Storing Spatial Data in RDBMS

Further Reading

Vector Data Structures

Simple Storage of Vector Data

Topological Storage of Vector Data

So What Is Topology?

And How Does It Help? The Example of DIME

More on Topological Data Structures

And a Return to Simple Data Structures

Further Reading

Vector Algorithms for Lines

Simple Line Intersection Algorithm

Why the Simple Line Intersection Algorithm Would Not Work: A Better Algorithm

Dealing with Wiggly Lines

Calculations on Lines: How Long Is a Piece of String?

Line Intersection: How It Is Really Done

Further Reading

Vector Algorithms for Areas

Calculations on Areas: Single Polygons

Calculations on Areas: Multiple Polygons

Point in Polygon: Simple Algorithm

… and Back to Topology for a Better Algorithm

Further Reading

The Efficiency of Algorithms

How Is Algorithm Efficiency Measured?

Efficiency of the Line Intersection Algorithm

More on Algorithm Efficiency

Further Reading

Raster Data Structures

Raster Data in Databases

Raster Data Structures: The Array

Saving Space: Run Length Encoding and Quadtrees

Data Structures for Images

Further Reading

Raster Algorithms

Raster Algorithms: Attribute Query for RunLength Encoded Data

Raster Algorithms: Attribute Query for Quadtrees

Raster Algorithms: Area Calculations

Further Reading

Data Structures for Surfaces

Data Models for Surfaces

Algorithms for Creating Grid Surface Models

Algorithms for Creating a Triangulated Irregular Network

Grid Creation Revisited

Further Reading

Algorithms for Surfaces

Elevation, Slope and Aspect

Hydrological Analysis Using a TIN

Determining Flow Direction Using a Gridded DEM

Using the Flow Directions for Hydrological Analysis

Further Reading

Data Structures and Algorithms for Networks

Networks in Vector and Raster

Shortest Path Algorithm

Data Structures for Network Data

Faster Algorithms for Finding the Shortest Route

Further Reading

Strategies for Efficient Data Access

Tree Data Structures

Indexing and Storing D Data Using Both Coordinates

Space-Filling Curves for Spatial Data

Spatial Filling Curves and Data Clustering

Space-Filling Curves for Indexing Spatial Data


Further Reading

Heuristics for Spatial Data

Travelling Salesman Problem

Location Allocation


Computability and Decidability

Further Reading





About the Author

Stephen Mark Wise is a senior lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield, UK. His teaching and research is mostly concerned with GIS.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Remote Sensing & Geographic Information Systems