John W. Hessler

Alpinist, GIS Scientist, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

John W. Hessler

Alpinist, GIS Scientist, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

Read my Alpinist articles...

When not climbing in the Alps or looking for rare butterflies on some far off mountaintop, I am a lecturer in Evolutionary & Quantum Computation in the Graduate School of Advanced Studies of the Krieger School of the Arts and Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University, and a Specialist in Computational Geography & Geographic Information Science at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

An avid alpinist, I am a frequent contributor to Alpinist Magazine where I write about high-altitude physiology, glaciers and climate change.

Over the past few years I have lectured or taught classes in Quantum & Evolutionary Computation, Evolutionary & Algorithmic Game theory, the Science of Pandemics, the History & Mathematical Foundations of GIS, and GIS for Bioinformatics Research.

Formerly of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where I mapped the phylodynamics & biogeography of high altitude lepidoptera in the French Alps, I am the founder of BIO-COMP Labs (BCL), where we combine GIS, along with advances in bioinformatics to study complex phylogenetic questions.

Our current projects center on mapping the transmission and geospatial variation of the D614G mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and on understanding the spatial variations of the genome of Rhinolophus bats—thought to be the hosts of SARS-CoV-2.

At the BCL, we are also interested in the mathematical foundations of evolutionary computation and its relationship to the theory of natural selection. We often find ourselves pondering the mathematical intricacies of evolutionary game theory, wondering about the topology of ancient DNA, and marveling at the complexities to be found in Darwin's tangled bank.

The author of more than one hundred articles and books, including the New York Times bestseller, MAP: Exploring the World, my writing and work has been featured in many national media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Discover Magazine, WIRED, CITYLAB, the BBC, CBS News and most recently on NPR’s All Things Considered, Bloomberg News and MAPLAB.

Researching the applications of Clifford and geometric algebra to the foundations of GIS, I am working on the forthcoming book, Geometric Algebra, mereotopology and the foundations of Geographic Information Science.

I find being close to the gentle hum of supercomputers, the minimalist beauty of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the everyday language of James Joyce’s Ulysses, strangely comforting.

  • Work
    • Johns Hopkins University / LoC