Origins of the Society

Over the decades, the British Cartographic Society has seen great changes and developments in the cartographic industry. We have adapted to these and continue to modify to suit our members’ interests.

Following the Second World War, there was a need for quality mapping in order to support the world’s recovery. A number of learned societies specialising in cartography were established. National geographical societies tended to serve these needs, but in the United Kingdom it became clear that this growing and complex technical subject required a society that could ‘devote itself to promoting the development of cartography’.

September 1962: at an informal cartographic symposium in Edinburgh, John Keates undertook to garner support for such a society.


1963: at a second informal gathering at the University of Leicester organised by Professor Norman Pye, options were discussed.


28 September 1963: at a formal meeting, chaired by Brigadier D. E. O. Thackwell, (then Vice President of the ICA), the formation of the Cartographic Society was proposed. With further contributions from John Keates and L. Hatch and A. G. Williams from the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, the aims of the new Society were agreed.


A council of 22 members was elected. Brigadier Thackwell was the first president. At the inaugural meeting, Executive, Editorial and Programme Committees were formed.


Over the next 50-plus years, the Society grew and developed, successfully establishing its credibility on a national and international stage. It has adapted to the emergence of GIS, the internet and changes in the cartography and data visualisation sectors and continues to do so.


For a more in-depth look at the Society’s history, download the PDF of our 50th anniversary book.