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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Jack Dangermond built a tech colossus, and a fortune, from GIS. Now he’s sharing it all to save the world.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Jack Dangermond wears oversized tortoise-shell glasses. At 72, his hairline has receded halfway back on his head. For work, he dresses casually—open collar, v-neck sweater. His manner is gracious and energetic, but calm and notably confident. He tends to speak as if in final draft, which he credits to years of dictating correspondence. He is tall and rangy, but it’s quite possible that when he arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1967 to earn an MLA he would have been taken for a geek. His ulterior motive in going there, after all, was “to start playing with computer mapping”—when computer mapping barely existed.

The school’s pioneering Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis had been founded two years earlier by the architecture professor Howard Fisher.

Dangermond says that on meeting Fisher, “He immediately hired me. Within an hour. Which was the luckiest thing that ever happened in my life.” Harvard was one hot spot of the era’s radical activism. “The Vietnam War was going on,” he says, “revolution in the air, protestors shutting down the university, creating all kinds of controversy. This big aha! moment came for my wife Laura and myself, who were both working there in the basement of Memorial Hall. We had a job making computer maps, doing air pollution studies and land-use suitability studies. The realization was, ‘We don’t want to go right or left; we just want to go forward with this idea of (more…)

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