John W. Hessler

GIS Scientist, Mountaineering Writer, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

John W. Hessler

GIS Scientist, Mountaineering Writer, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

Read my Alpinist articles...

When not climbing in the Alps or racing in the saddle of a Cervélo, I am a lecturer in Evolutionary & Quantum Computing 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.

An avid mountaineer, I am a frequent contributor to Alpinist Magazine, where I write on high-altitude physiology, glaciology & climate change.

Over the past few years I have lectured or presented seminars in Quantum Computing, Evolutionary Computation, Evolutionary Game theory, Fourier Transforms & Wavelets, the Science of Pandemics, and GIS for Bioinformatics Research. Interested in the interface of computation and neuroscience, I have also taught classes in the mapping of the human brain and neural computation.

Formerly of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where I studied the genomics and biogeography of high altitude lepidoptera in the French Alps, I am the founder of the New Geometries Laboratory (NGL), where we combine evolutionary computation & geospatial data, along with advances in bioinformatics, to study complex biogeographic and phylogenetic problems, like mapping pandemics. Our current project centers on the phylodynamics of Rhinolophus bats—thought to be the hosts of SARS-CoV-2.

At the NGL, we are also interested in the theoretical foundations of evolutionary computing in bioinformatics and the use of wavelets in the analysis of DNA sequences. We often find ourselves pondering the mathematical intricacies of evolutionary game theory, wondering about butterfly wing patterns, and marveling at the complexities to be found in Darwin's tangled bank.

Researching the applications of Clifford Algebras and the Mereotopological foundations of GIS, I am working on the forthcoming book, Spatial Algebras: formalizing the foundations of Geographic Information Science.

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 and MAPLAB.

I find being close to the gentle hum of supercomputers, the feel of a BD ultralight Camelot, and the language of James Joyce’s Ulysses, strangely comforting.

  • Work
    • Johns Hopkins University / LoC