I am trying to determine the origin of the popular map overlay diagram that shows a GIS as a stack of map layers connected by four vertical lines representing the geo referencing system.
Can someone direct me to the origin/original diagram/author?
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This is an interesting "archeological" question. Perhaps, it would be hard to define a well-identified first proposer of this representation. It sounds more like something that has been largely adopted because of its very good capability of representing the idea of georeferenced layers.
However, you could try to get most important old GIS text books and see which of them report this representation; then it could be considered a reference for this representation.