Erwin J. Raisz (1893-1968) is an American 20th century cartographer who established principles of cartography and of cartographic education in the United States. Raisz (pronounced to sound like "rice") graduated from the Royal Polytechnicum in Budapest in 1914 with a Civil Engineering and Architecture degree. In 1923, Erwin Raisz immigrated to the United States. He worked as a map maker while he also attended Columbia University, in 1929 earning a doctorate in geology with a dissertation entitled "Scenery of Mt. Desert Island: its origin and development." In 1931 Raisz joined Harvard University's Institute of Geographical Exploration where he taught cartography and curated the map collection for decades. His 1938 book General Cartography is credited as being the first American English language text on cartography.
Raisz is perhaps best known by map collectors and students of his work for his use of line and color in hand drawn maps that explain the identity of a place in terms of its landscape. The hand drawn Raisz map "A Canoeist's Guide to New England's Rivers", 1935 is a pictorial memory that bears an unusual map a key explaining New England rivers: Wholly Smooth, Mostly Smooth, Very Attractive, Pleasant and Not Recommended, to name a few. The map is in bold colors. Raisz drew a "Map of Old Cambridge in the Vicinity of Harvard University" for Phillips Brooks House, with the Harvard insignia and motto "VE RI TAS" and a vignette of the Charles River Front showing Harvard's new houses (see elsewhere in General Inventory). The use of landforms in more conventional maps by Raisz appeared in atlases, map series and other formats, such as those shown here.
Erwin Raisz maps and his philosophy of mapmaking help us see the role that the landscape and landforms play in guiding the course of history, political geography and the development of civilizations.