Robert W. Marx

- 2009

Robert W. Marx, former Chief of the Geography Division at the U.S. Census Bureau, died following an illness. Marx served as the Geography Division’s Chief from 1983 to 2003, interrupted only by a three-year period as Associate Director in the 1990s to prepare for the 2000 Census. He was the architect of the Census Bureau’s TIGER System, which began in the early 1980s as a collaborative effort with the U.S. Geological Survey. Marx was known as a trailblazer who sought new ways to advance the importance of census geography through technological advances that were made practical through useful applications. By making spatial data for the nation available, the TIGER effort opened the way for GIS development and pioneered an entire new industry. Bob Marx began his GIS career in the early 1960s while a student in geography and urban planning at the University of Minnesota, studying under John Borchert. To cover his educational expenses, he worked in the offi ces of Hodne Associates, Architects and Planners, preparing land use and comprehensive plan maps for small communities in Minnesota and Illinois under the auspices of the former “Section 701” program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this capacity, he used the precursor to modern automated GIS methods – mylar base maps and clear overlays emblazoned with Zipa- Tone shadings and Presstype letters – to create the various “views” that illustrated combinations of information integral to the planning process. After joining the Census Bureau in 1966, Marx helped launch the Bureau’s then fl edgling Metropolitan Map Series, which provided the base for the Address Coding Guides that covered the 145 largest urban centers of the United States for the 1970 decennial census. Although crude by today’s standards, these two systems – comprising the base map information of streets, street names, address ranges, rivers, lakes and their names, railroads, governmental unit boundaries and names, census tract boundaries and numbers – once entered into the Census Bureau’s computers and enhanced with the Dual Independent Map Encoding (DIME) technologies, this series evolved into the Geographic Base Files (GBFs) covering the 287 largest urban centers of the 1980 census, and then to the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) files that covered the entire United States, Puerto Rico, and the associated Island Areas of the 1990 census and Census 2000. During his more than 36-year career at the Census Bureau, Marx received several awards for exceptional performance, including the Department of Commerce’s Gold and Silver Medals, and the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award. A memorial/tribute session in honor of Bob Marx is currently being organized at the AAG Annual Meeting for the evening of Wednesday, April 14. Consult your conference program for place and time.

Robert W. Marx (Necrology). 2009. AAG Newsletter 45(3): 14.