Brian McClendon is the visionary creator of what became Google Earth and later, Google Maps and Google Street View.
Brian McClendon is a 1989 KU engineering graduate, who founded Keyhole, Inc, a startup company that developed a web-based maps product called Keyhole and a language called KML - Keyhole Markup Language. Keyhole was acquired by Google in the early 2000's and became what we know today as Google Earth. At the same time Brian became vice president of research at Google, responsible for overseeing all of their maps projects - Google Earth, Google Maps and Street View - across all browser platforms. As important as Earth and Maps are, the KML language may be even more important. It allows users to display their own information on the Google Earth platform, thus providing scientists and citizens a free platform for delivering global information. Users add KML annotations to data that allows it to be displayed using Google Earth or Google Maps platforms. Literally, KML makes Google Earth an interactive map for displaying any kind of GIS-related data.
The technology McClendon invented -- based in large part in the education he received at the University of Kansas in the mid-1980s and the birth of modern computing power -- will forever change every aspect of computer engineering and sciences, geography, meteorology, linguistics, anthropology ... to name just a few of the fields dramatically altered by the power unleashed with Google Earth.
McClendon received a 2013 recognition as a "Champion of the Earth," the top environmental prize awarded by the United Nations. In its citation, the United Nations recognized McClendon "for harnessing the power of technology to support conservation and green economic development."
In recognition for his efforts, Brian was recently inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, one of only five KU engineering alumni to be so named. He has recently left Google to join Uber as Vice President of Advanced Technologies.