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Dr Kaew Nualchawee A pioneer in GIS in Thailand

Dr Kaew Nualchawee


Dr Kaew Nualchawee
Member, Executive Board,
GISTDA, Thailand

It was at around 4 PM February 28, 2003 at AIT centre, Bangkok when I met Dr Kaew Nualchawee, Member, GISTDA Executive Board and Advisor to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Thailand. He is a popular and a highly regarded personality among the geo-informatics community in Thailand. During our discussion, a lady came to him and said, “Thank you, Dr Kaew. It is only because of your initiatives and efforts that we are working in GIS in this country”. Very soon I realized that I was interacting with the father of GIS in Thailand. His life reflects some of the important moments of geo-informatics history in Thailand.

Dr Kaew belongs to a very simple family. His father was a teacher in a primary school. Despite having a rural and agricultural background, his father understood the importance of education and sent his children to school. Dr Kaew took full advantage of the opportunity and devoted much of his time to studies. After completion of his secondary education he went on to Chulalongkorn University and received a bachelor’s degree in Physics.

After his graduation in 1964, he went to work for the Military Research and Development Center (MRDC), a joint program between the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Supreme Command Head Quarters of the Royal Thai Military in Bangkok. It was at this time that Dr Kaew realized the value of his physics background he gained from Chulalongkorn University because they match very well with the nature of work carried out at the MRDC. Here Dr Kaew had a first hand experience in remote sensing in one project: Advanced Multispectral Photographic and Infra-Red Test (AMPIRT) Project. The project was conducted in collaboration with Cornell University’s Cornell Laboratory of New York, USA on photographic aspects and Willow Run Laboratories of University of Michigan, USA on infrared aspects of the project. Through this project, a full range of remote sensing activities were exercised and carried out, although they were not known as remote sensing at that time. The term “remote sensing” was adopted some time later in Michigan, USA.

In 1967, Dr Kaew was awarded Fulbright Scholarship to further his advanced studies at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut. In 1968, Dr Kaew was awarded Master degree in Physics from the University of Connecticut, USA.

In 1979, Dr Kaew joined the AIT as an Assistant Professor of Computing and Remote Sensing and Assistant to the Director of the Regional Computer Center (RCC) for Remote Sensing. In 1980, Dr Kaew established an academic course in Remote Sensing to be taught in the Computer Application Division of AIT.