Stan Openshaw

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Stan Openshaw (born 10 August 1946) is a retired British geographer. His last post was professor of human geography based in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds. After eighteen years at Newcastle University, including three years as professor of quantitative geography, he moved to work in Leeds in 1992. Stan was a leading researcher in computer-based geography and his work aimed to automate aspects of geographical research and reduce subjectivity in geographical analyses. He worked hard and was not just enthusiastic, but inspirational and catalysed research, developed researchers, projects and collaborations, and helped to evolve geographical information systems, analysis technology and models that in their day were state-of-the-art. Stan is still passionate about geography and keen to learn about the employment of geographical approaches that attempt to make the world a better place. In the past, he debated the direction geography should take putting forward a view that the subject needed an applied and scientific edge that harnessed the growing power of computers to make positive impacts to help us avoid and mitigate risk and cope better with disasters.

In 1992 Stan set up the Centre for Computational Geography (CCG) [1] as an inter-disciplinary unit at the University of Leeds, an organisation dedicated to bringing computers to bear on complex social and physical problems. Stan directed the CCG for seven years until suffering a severely disabling stroke in 1999 after which he was retired.[2]

Stan became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Chartered Statistician in 1993, a Fellow of the Institute of Statisticians in 1983 and was a Member of the British Computer Society from 1983.

In 2012 at the GISRUK conference in Lancaster a special session was arranged to celebrate Stan's work and geographical career.[3]

A festschrift [4] document about Stan's work and career as a geographer is partially developed. If you have something to add, then please contribute to this work. A short Stan Openshaw Festschrift Film is linked from the festschrift and is available on YouTube on The Stan Openshaw Channel. Also on that channel are edited presentation videos from the GISRUK 2012 special session held in Stan's honour. The Stan Openshaw Festschrift Film features (among others) one of Stan's most brilliant students Danny Dorling.

Since his major disabling stroke in 1999 Stan has struggled to communicate verbally and get around, but he is well aware of the world around him and the problems we face. Stan is much diminished now in his abilities to help the world and our society address its problems, but Stan now presents to the world his artwork in the form of acrylic paint on canvas. Stan has been developing his style for a few years and has graduated to selling his works. Like much of Stan's work, it somehow adds an extra dimension to what you might expect. One painting was produced for Danny Dorling and was presented to him after his inaugural lecture as Halford Mackinder professor of Geography at the University of Oxford on the 3rd of February 2014.

Education[edit]

Scholarship[edit]

Stan's "Southern - East Lothian" B.A. Honours Geography Thesis has six chapters describing the physical and socio-economic geography of the region in the south east of Scotland. It contains tables of data, maps, aerial and ground level photographs, diagrams, statistical analysis, considerable description and details of two surveys (one about tourism which Stan aimed at tourists in Dunbar, and another about agriculture which Stan aimed at farmers). It may be that there is more than one copy of this thesis produced in 1968 and submitted to Newcastle University, but it would not be surprising for Stan to have kept a copy. A copy is stored with other artifacts of Stan's in a collection called "The Stan Openshaw Collection" [5] the physical manifestation of which resides for the time being at the University of Leeds.

Stan's "Processes in urban morphology with special reference to South Shields" Ph. D. Thesis is archived at the British Library as microfilm no. : D10191/74. The thesis submitted to Newcastle University was completed in December 1973. It was compiled over several years (and for at least the latter part) whilst Stan worked in the Planning Department at Durham County Council. Stan wrote an abstract of the thesis and keeps it with his copy of the work. The abstract has now been reproduced on-line on his CCG PhD Web Page.[6]

Stan's research career blossomed in the Department of Town and Country Planning at Newcastle University, where, during the 1970s he worked on zone design methodology, for regional based administration, and for the analysis of socio-economic data in geographical and planning contexts. During the same period he developed a way to estimate death or kill rates of various nuclear bombing strategies evolving computerised techniques for identifying locations with the highest concentration of something. In the 1980s he pioneered the use of multimedia geographical information systems by spearheading the BBC Domesday Project.

Stan strove to remove human bias from the scientific process and was a strong believer in human-competitive machine intelligence. In the late 1980s and through the 1990s he worked to develop automated geographical analysis tools and "geographical explanation machines", which aimed to assist human researchers in the formation of hypotheses about the causes of geographical clusters and patterns in data. Stan introduced genetic programming to geography and demonstrated the predictive capabilities of artificial intelligence techniques and the modelling and inference capabilities of fuzzy logic. Perhaps his best known contributions, however, were to the field of geodemographics and location modelling, working on the classification of groups of people and the development of spatial interaction model technology for analysing networks of demand and supply.

In 1996, as the World Wide Web began to blossom, Stan encouraged a growing global community of computational geographers to meet for a first international GeoComputation conference which was hosted at the University of Leeds in 1997. The event was a great success and initialized a series of international conferences that is still on-going (see the GeoComputation Conference Series Home Page for details).

Books[edit]

  • Openshaw, S., Abrahart, R.J. (2000) Geocomputation
  • Openshaw, S., Turton, I. (2000) High performance computing and the art of parallel programming: An introduction for |-
  • Stillwell, J.C.H, Geertman S., Openshaw, S. (1999) Geographical information and planning
  • Openshaw, S., Openshaw, C. (1997) Artificial intelligence in geography
  • Openshaw, S. (1995) Census users' handbook
  • Openshaw, S., Carver, S., Fernie J. (1989) Britain's nuclear waste: siting and safety
  • Openshaw, S. (1986) Nuclear power: siting and safety
  • Openshaw, S., Steadman, P., Greene, O. (1983) Doomsday: Britain after nuclear attack
  • Openshaw, S. (1978) Doomsday: Britain after nuclear attack

PhD Students[edit]

Name of Student Year of Completion Thesis Title University Affiliation
James Macgill 2001 Applications of Artificial Life Technologies to Geography School of Geography, University of Leeds
Young-Hoon Kim

[7]

2000 Intelligent location optimisations (ILOs) in GIS environments School of Geography, University of Leeds
Linda See 1999 Fuzzy Logic Applications in Geography School of Geography, University of Leeds
Gary Diplock 1996 The Application of Evolutionary Computing Techniques to Spatial Interaction Modelling School of Geography, University of Leeds
Danny Dorling 1991 The Visualization of Spatial Structure [8] Department of Geography, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Chris Brunsdon 1990 Spatial Analysis Techniques Applied to Local Crime Patterns Department of Geography, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Yannis Veneris 1985 The Informational Revolution, Cybernetics and Urban Modelling School of Architectural Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Greece

(N.B. This is a work in progress, there is much detail to add...)

External links[edit]

References[edit]