Douglas Richardson Awarded Lifetime Achievement Honors

December 15, 2021
Douglas Richardson

The Harvard University Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) is pleased to announce that Douglas Richardson has been awarded Lifetime Achievement Honors by the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Dr. Richardson is a Distinguished Researcher at the CGA and the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), where he is engaged in multiple cutting-edge research programs.

The 2022 AAG Lifetime Achievement Honors were awarded to Douglas Richardson for his visionary and far-reaching contributions to Geography and GIScience. In 1980, he founded and led GeoResearch, Inc., which invented and patented the real-time, interactive GPS/GIS technology that enabled the continuous creation of accurate maps and their simultaneous integration with GIS. This was truly visionary, given that this was developed long before even cell phones were ubiquitous. Dr. Richardson’s work influenced the development of new horizons for research and applications of geography to transportation, public health, and the environmental sciences.

From 2003 to 2019, Dr. Richardson served as the Executive Director of the AAG and brought the same visionary outlook to the organization. At the time of his appointment, the AAG was facing challenges in terms of finances, membership, and new technologies. To address this, Dr. Richardson renegotiated existing contracts, built external partnerships, garnered federal research grants, revamped AAG’s membership services, and took other actions to put AAG on sound financial footing. Dr. Richardson then successfully implemented a broad and inclusive vision for an AAG that has led to the expansion of the AAG’s membership to 12,000 members across nearly 100 countries.

Three areas of particular impact were research, publications, and public policy.  Dr. Richardson strengthened the AAG’s capacity and infrastructure for obtaining external funding for geography-related research projects. He hired talented research staff and built productive collaborations between the AAG and academic geographers. As a result of his leadership, AAG received federal funding for a range of projects. For example, NIH provided funding for a project that brought GIScientists together with biomedical researchers to explore research frontiers at the intersection of geography and health research.

Another area of major contribution is publications. Under Dr. Richardson’s leadership, the AAG launched two new journals: GeoHumanities and the AAG Review of Books, which brought new audiences to geography. Another major project was the publication of the 15-volume International Encyclopedia of Geography, for which he still serves as Editor-in-Chief. Updated annually, it has become the most comprehensive and authoritative reference work on geography. The volume received the prestigious CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Title of 2017 by the Association of College and Research Libraries. Dr. Richardson is a prolific scholar who, since 2003, has coauthored or co-edited five other books (The Geographical Dimensions of Terrorism; Geography and Drug Abuse; GeoHumanities: Art, History and Text at the Edge of Place; Envisioning Landscapes, Making Worlds: Geography and the Humanities; and SpaceTime Integration in Geography and GIScience; as well as dozens of articles and book chapters.

Dr. Richardson has also made a lasting impact in the area of public advocacy for geography. He created a Public Policy Research Program with dedicated staff to monitor congressional bills of relevance to the discipline and to lobby on behalf of geography. Thanks to this infrastructure, AAG was able to mobilize a strong response to threats to science/geoscience funding a few years ago, effect positive changes in federal and state K-12 geography education legislation and maintain strong and open federal GIS policies for geographers.

Taken together, Douglas Richardson has had a career of remarkable distinction, during which his vision and dedication has placed the AAG and the discipline of geography in a position of strength, said AAG Executive Director Gary Langham. He is eminently deserving of AAG’s Lifetime Achievement Honors.


The Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) was established in 2006 to support research and teaching across all disciplines in the University as they relate to geospatial technology and methods.