Tobler’s First Law of Geography



The first law of geography was developed by Waldo Tobler in 1970 and it makes the observation that ‘everything is usually related to all else but those which are near to each other are more related when compared to those that are further away’.  This observation which Tobler made is closely related to the ‘Law of Universal Gravitation’ and the ‘Law of Demand’ as well. The concept was first applied by Tobler to urban growth systems and was not popularly received when it was first published.  It wasn’t until the 1990s when this formulation of the concept of spatial autocorrelation became an important underlying concept in the field of GIS.

Who is Waldo Tobler?

Waldo Tobler is a retired Professor of Geography and Professor of Statistics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Tobler is a National Academy of Sciences and an Honorary Fellow of the American Geographical Society.  

Further Reading about the First Law of Geography

Tobler W., (1970) “A computer movie simulating urban growth in the Detroit region”. Economic Geography, 46(2): 234-240.

More References

Goodchild, Michael.  n.d. “Methods: First Law of Geography”

Hecht, B., Moxley, E. 2009.  “Terabytes of Tobler: Evaluating the first law in a massive, domain-neutral representation of world knowledge”. In Hornsby, K.S., Claramunt, C., Denis, M., Ligozat, G., eds.: Spatial Information Theory, 9th International Conference, COSIT 2009, Aber Wrac’h, France, September 21-25, 2009, Proceedings. Volume 5756 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science., Springer (2009) 88-105.

Sui, Daniel Z. 2004.  “Tobler’s First Law of Geography: A Big Idea for a Small World?” Annals of the Association of American Geographers V. 94 Is.