Professor Howard Taylor Fisher
Chicago, October 30,
1903 - Exeter, New Hampshire, January 23, 1979
Director of the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (LCGSA), Harvard University
Professor of City Planning
Research Professor of Theoretical Cartography
Short Biography of a Pioneer (adapted from Boston Globe, Boston Globe, 11-25-1979 by Lucia Lovison-Golob, 2002)
Professor Howard Taylor Fisher developed the synegraphic mapping system (SYMAP) in the mid 1960s.
He was Director of the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (LCGSA). LCGSA was established with the support of a Ford grant in 12/10/65.
Howard T. Fisher, Harvard Professor and architect, introduced innovations such as prefabricated housing to American life and a computerized mapping system called SYMAP.
Mr. Fisher was the youngest son of Walter L. Fisher, a Chicago
Lawyer and conservationist and one time Secretary of the Interior under President
William Howard Taft.
He earned an art history degree Magna Cum Laude, 1926 and attended during the following three years the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Impatient with the beaux-arts curriculum of the time, he left the graduate school to work.
He organized General Housing, Inc. in 1932, a pioneering firm in prefabricated housing which integrated design, manufacture and marketing of simple houses into a single package. The firm used mass production methods to produce the houses. A standard two-bedroom house offered in 1933 cost $4,500. Married Marion Hall in 1939.
Registered Architect by examination in Illinois and New York; Registered Professional Engineer in Illinois.
He applied his techniques to war housing during World War II in Washington for four years. After the war, he returned to Chicago and established the architectural firm of Howard T. Fisher & associates. The firm did design work and research in building materials and methods and was also involved in city planning, traffic engineering shopping centers and housing projects in the United States and abroad.
Mr. Fisher began to teach urban and regional planning and generalized problem-solving at the Technological Institute of Northwestern University between 1957 and 1964. He developed SYMAP, a computer program that produces sophisticated statistical maps using simple alphanumeric printers. By the end of 1979, the computer mapping program is widely used today in public health, city planning and demographics.
Harvard invited Mr. Fisher back to Cambridge in 1965. At the age of 62, he became the founder and first director of Harvard's Laboratory for Computer Graphics and a year later a professor of city planning at the Graduate School of Design ('65-68, associte director, 1968-70). He became a research professor of theoretical cartography in 1970 and retired to New Hampshire in 1974.
For three years he taught a Freshman Seminar offered by the Harvard College, first on problem solving in general and later on research in computer graphics.
He was editor of and a contributor to the Harvard Papers in Theoretical Cartography.
In 1971, he published "Mapping Quantitative Information."
He was director emeritus of the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis.:
Organizer and director of various conferences sponsored by the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis.
"He was a pioneer in the effective use of the computer as a means of communicating the large volumes on information in an easily comprehensible form, to the non-technically oriented user" Allan Schmidt, executive director of the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (1979).
The Laboratory was closed and dismantled that same year and most of the personnel departed Harvard.