Institut géographique national (France)
This article is about the French Institut Géographique National; for the similar Belgian institution also called Institut Géographique National see Nationaal Geografisch Instituut - Institut Géographique National. For other countries with similar institutions, see IGN (disambiguation)
IGN (disambiguation)
- National mapping institutes :* Institut Géographique National, the French national geographic institute* Instituto Geográfico Nacional , the Guatemalan national geographic institute...


The Institut Géographique National (National Geographic Institute) or IGN is a French public state administrative establishment founded in 1940 to produce and maintain geographical information for France and its overseas departments and territories.

Administrative organisation

The IGN depends on the French Ministry of Equipment, Transport, Town and Country Planning, Tourism and Sea
Minister of Transportation (France)
The Minister of Transport is a cabinet member in the Government of France. The position was created in 1870 as a modification of that of the Minister of Public Works...

. Its missions are fixed by decrees.

State subsidies represent 55% of the budget, and sales 45%.

The IGN runs four laboratories to research geographical information acquisition, production, distribution and applications. It also runs its own school to teach techniques to its staff and other students: École nationale des sciences géographiques (English: National School of Geographical Sciences) or ENSG.


The IGN is responsible for the management and updating of:
  • geodesic
    Geodesy , also named geodetics, a branch of earth sciences, is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in a three-dimensional time-varying space. Geodesists also study geodynamical phenomena such as crustal...

     and levelling
    The elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface ....

  • aerial photographies
    Aerial photography
    Aerial photography is the taking of photographs of the ground from an elevated position. The term usually refers to images in which the camera is not supported by a ground-based structure. Cameras may be hand held or mounted, and photographs may be taken by a photographer, triggered remotely or...

  • geographical data bases and map
    A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes....


It has to lead research, and to take part in the standardization
Standardization is the process of developing and implementing technical standards.The goals of standardization can be to help with independence of single suppliers , compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability, or quality....

 process in the field of geographical information. It has to manage ENSG, and the documentation service about its products, techniques and services.

A group of French public administrations, in partnership with the IGN, establish the Large Scale Reference (Référentiel à grande échelle, RGE): orthophoto
An orthophoto, orthophotograph or orthoimage is an aerial photograph geometrically corrected such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map...

, topography
Topography is the study of Earth's surface shape and features or those ofplanets, moons, and asteroids...

, cadastral survey
A cadastre , using a cadastral survey or cadastral map, is a comprehensive register of the metes-and-bounds real property of a country...

 and address
Address (geography)
An address is a collection of information, presented in a mostly fixed format, used for describing the location of a building, apartment, or other structure or a plot of land, generally using political boundaries and street names as references, along with other identifiers such as house or...

 databases which can be superimposed on all the French territory, with a 1-meter resolution
Image resolution
Image resolution is an umbrella term that describes the detail an image holds. The term applies to raster digital images, film images, and other types of images. Higher resolution means more image detail....



Covering the whole French territory:
  • topographic map
    Topographic map
    A topographic map is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines in modern mapping, but historically using a variety of methods. Traditional definitions require a topographic map to show both natural and man-made features...

    s on the 1:25,000, 1:50,000 and 1:100,000 scales
    Scale (map)
    The scale of a map is defined as the ratio of a distance on the map to the corresponding distance on the ground.If the region of the map is small enough for the curvature of the Earth to be neglected, then the scale may be taken as a constant ratio over the whole map....

  • road maps
    A roadmap may refer to:*A map of roads, and possibly other features, to aid in navigation.*A plan, e.g.**Road map for peace, to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.**Technology roadmap, a management forecasting tool....

     on the 1:250,000 and 1:1,000,000 scales (this last one covers metropolitan France on one sheet).
  • maps of foreign countries
  • ICAO
    International Civil Aviation Organization
    The International Civil Aviation Organization , pronounced , , is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth...

     aeronautical maps on the 1:500,000 scale for visual flying
    Visual flight rules
    Visual flight rules are a set of regulations which allow a pilot to operate an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going. Specifically, the weather must be better than basic VFR weather minimums, as specified in the rules of the...


The IGN is also in charge of the Géoportail
Géoportail is a web mapping service of the French government whose aim is to publicise geographical data about the whole French territory. This service, developed by two public agencies , was officially inaugurated on June 23, 2006 by president Jacques Chirac...



The IGN is the successor to the geographical Service of the Army (SGA), which was founded in 1887 and disbanded in 1940. The old maps produced by the SCA were divided into two batches: one which remained at the Institute and one which joined the military files of Vincennes
Vincennes is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the centre of Paris. It is one of the most densely populated municipalities in Europe.-History:...

. The general Louis Hurault, who was at the origin of these modifications, was the first director of the IGN. He tried, in vain, to recover the material shared by the Germans. A law in ten articles is signed the 14 in order to define the functions of the IGN. The statutes had been signed the 8. This established the national School of geographical sciences in order to train Cartographical engineers.

During the Second World War, the IGN became famous for its counterfeiters. The cartographers are indeed experts in penmanship and the material necessary to the production of fake identity papers was available to the Institute. Certain engineers of the IGN were in contact with the services of allied information based in London. In secret, they brought a complete set of maps to London covering France and North Africa in order to replace maps destroyed in a bombardment.

The agents of the IGN took an active part in armed resistance in 1943. Several agents were shot by the Germans or died in action. Between September 1944 and on 8 May 1945, the IGN was under the control of the “provisional government” and most of its personnel and of his services are transformed into “military geographical Service”. At the end of the war, the IGN received the thanks of Generals Bradley and Eisenhower.

Between 1945 and 1946, the debate is intense concerning the future of the IGN, last creation of the Third Republic. A law is finally signed the 8. It confirms the membership of the IGN to the Ministry of works and create the “geographical Section of staff of the Army”, new section in charge of the military map.

In 1947, the IGN receives the mission of covering the whole France, but also all the dependents’ territories, like North Africa, Western Africa, Madagascar, the countries associated with Indochina and the departments and overseas territories. The task is considerable with more than 12 million km ² being covered. The independence of these countries will have as a consequence the creation of national services in each country (examples: DTGC in Senegal, IGN-N in Niger).

To carry out the aerial survey task, the IGN was equipped in 1948 with several ex USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, specially modified for the task. They were based at Creil airfield to the north of Paris. The aircraft were replaced by French-built Hurel-Dubois HD.34 twin engined survey aircraft in the late 1950s.

The IGN then initiates a period of active co-operation with the majority of these organizations by providing some engineers of the IGN and also receive the students of the ENSG who intended to become the executives of the cartographic services of new independent countries. The activity of the IGN apart from the French territory also develops by the control geodesic project(Ecuador 1975, Libya 1979, Saudi Arabia 1981), of cartography (Saudi Arabia, Burundi, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin…).

1982 to 1988, the control of a large topometric project and numerical cartography in Riyadh is the occasion to massively introduce digital techniques into the processing production; in parallel, the idea of a topoland data base emerges at meetings of the “national Commission of the geographical information” chaired by Guy Lengagne; this commission returns his report in 1983 and outlines numerical geographical information then in agreement with the period of the basic map with 1:25 000.Publicly-owned establishment related to administration since the 1 January 1967, it is placed under the supervision of the ministry for Transport, the equipment, tourism and the sea.

In 1971, the IGN and the CNES form the “Group of research of geodesic space”. This collaboration between the IGN and the CNES continues with the launching of the program SPOT the 5. The launching of satellite SPOT-1 takes place the 22.Six days after take SPOT-1 in orbit, the IGN create its programme of “data bases launches”, the “data bases”. The data base of the cities, the data base of leveling distribution, the data base of geodesic distribution , the aerial missions data base and the toponyms data base were progressively establish . The “Topo data base”, bases of topographic data digitized, covers from now on the whole
France and include nearly two million toponyms .

Its activities abroad begin into 1986 within a new subsidiary private company IGN France International.

From 2000, the IGN develops the concept of Reference frame on a Large Scale (référentiel à grande échelle = RGE); it is a question of completing within a deadline short digitalization the cartography of the French territory with a meter scale and according to four components: topography, land registry and address. This RGE is entirely completed at the end of 2008. Then it enter in a cycle of maintenance In June 2006, the IGN opened the service Géoportail
Géoportail is a web mapping service of the French government whose aim is to publicise geographical data about the whole French territory. This service, developed by two public agencies , was officially inaugurated on June 23, 2006 by president Jacques Chirac...

 allowing the cartographic visualization of the French territory on a Web navigator and using on one hand funds of air photographs and on the other hand the digitized maps to the 1/25 000. “Phase 2” of Géoportail was put on line one year later, with a new ergonomics.

At the end of 2006, the IGN was implied in the production of a receiver GPS
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

, for the excursion and automobile navigation, called Evadeo. The software of navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

 was provided by BCI navigation (replaced in 2008 by CompeGPS), the road data are of Navteq
Navteq is a Chicago, Illinois-based provider of Geographic Information Systems data and is a dominant company in providing the base electronic navigable maps...

 and it puce GPS of SiRF
SiRF Technology, Inc. was pioneer in the commercial use of GPS for consumer applications, the company was founded in 1995 and has its headquarters in San Jose, California. The company was acquired by CSR plc in 2009. SiRF manufactures a range of patented GPS chipsets and software for consumer...

, and the IGN provides a part with extracts of its maps at various scales.

In June 2007, the IGN started offering a service whereby it is possible to have a map printed centred on any location in France. This is similar to the service offered in Great Britain by the Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey , an executive agency and non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom, is the national mapping agency for Great Britain, producing maps of Great Britain , and one of the world's largest producers of maps.The name reflects its creation together with...


In July 2007, Géportail – an online map service – began offering 3D movable views in a similar style to GoogleEarth. To use this function, it is necessary to install the plugin TerraExplorer.

External links

Official site IGN Fortresses history (in french)
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