Brian McClendon

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Brian McClendon
Brian McClendon 7-21-11.jpg
Personal details
Born1964 (age 56–57)
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Beth Ellyn McClendon
EducationUniversity of Kansas, Lawrence (BS)

Brian McClendon (born 1964) is an American software executive, engineer, and inventor.[1] He was a co-founder and angel investor in Keyhole, Inc., a geospatial data visualization company that was purchased by Google in 2004[2][3] to produce Google Earth. Keyhole itself was spun off from another company called Intrinsic Graphics, of which McClendon was also a co-founder. McClendon was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2015 for strategic, technical, and managerial leadership resulting in widespread accurate and useful geographic information.

Early life[edit]

McClendon grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. His childhood home, Meadowbrook Apartments in Lawrence, is the default center point of Google Earth.[4] He graduated from Lawrence High School in 1982 and from the University of Kansas in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering.[5]



McClendon spent eight years with Silicon Graphics developing high-end workstation 3D graphics including GT, GTX, RealityEngine, and InfiniteReality, and then was Engineering Director with @Home Network.

In 2001 he was one of the original investors in Keyhole, Inc., a software development company specializing in geospatial data visualization applications. He later joined the company as a vice-president of engineering. He was also a board member.

McClendon joined Google as an Engineering Director in 2004 when Keyhole was purchased.[6] He was later promoted to Vice President of Geo.[7] Keyhole's main application suite, Earth Viewer, formed the basis of Google Earth.

He left Google to join Uber in June 2015 to work on mapping.[8] Although living in California, he maintained close ties with his alma mater, the University of Kansas, serving on advisory boards for both the School of Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He and his wife Beth Ellyn McClendon established the McClendon Engineering Scholarship at the university in 2007, donated computer tablets for electrical engineering and computer science students, and provided a Google Liquid Galaxy interactive display at the University's Eaton Hall. In 2013, he served as Grand Marshal of the University's homecoming parade.[9]

In March 2017, he resigned from Uber (though remaining as an adviser) to return to his hometown, indicating an interest in Kansas politics.[10]

He currently serves as a research professor at the University of Kansas, having received an honorary doctorate in electrical engineering from the university in 2015. His research subjects include machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and world-scale mapping.[11]


In January 2018, he announced his intention to run for Kansas Secretary of State as a Democrat.[12] He ran unopposed in the primary election and was selected as the Democratic candidate.[13] He was defeated in the general election by the Republican candidate Scott Schwab.[14]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

McClendon received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Kansas, "for outstanding contributions to the fields of electrical engineering and computer science." He has been recognized by the United Nations as a "Champion of the Earth", which is its top environmental prize, "for harnessing the power of technology to support conservation and green economic development."[15]

McClendon holds twenty one issued patents,[16] including nine relating to KML,[17] the XML-based language schema for expressing geographic annotation and visualization in two-dimensional maps and three-dimensional Earth browsers. KML became an open standard for GIS data in 2008.[18]

Depiction in Media[edit]

  • 2012: Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings[19]
  • 2018: Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution That Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality by Bill Kilday[20]


  1. ^ "Google's Road Map to Global Domination". The New York Times Magazine. December 11, 2013.
  2. ^ "Google Acquires Keyhole Corp" (Press release). Mountain View, California. October 27, 2004. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  3. ^ "Google Buys Digital Mapping Company". PC World. October 27, 2004.
  4. ^ "Lawrence pinpointed as center of Google Earth". Lawrence Journal World. December 21, 2005.
  5. ^ "Brian McClendon: Alumni Spotlight". February 2014.
  6. ^ "Greensburg, Kansas, Tornado Imagery". Google Maps. May 9, 2007.
  7. ^ "Google's Road Map to Global Domination". The New York Times Magazine. December 11, 2013.
  8. ^ "Uber Hires Google’s Former Head of Maps to Oversee Location Technology, Pittsburgh Center" re code, June 16, 2015 Archived August 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Google's Brian McClendon to serve as grand marshal for KU Homecoming parade". September 13, 2013.
  10. ^ "Uber's head of mapping leaves, wants to go home". USA Today. March 20, 2017.
  11. ^ "Brian McClendon". University of Kansas Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Former tech exec, Lawrence native Brian McClendon announces run for Kansas secretary of state". Lawrence Journal. January 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "2018 Primary Election Official Vote Totals" (PDF). August 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "Kansas Republicans win races for secretary of state, insurance commissioner, attorney general, treasurer; Estes and Marshall keep congressional seats".
  15. ^ "University of Kansas Honorary Degrees profile for Brian McClendon". October 14, 2015. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  16. ^ "US Patent Database Search Results: IN/"McCLendon, Brian" in US Patent Collection". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  17. ^ "Patent Database Search Results: IN/"McCLendon, Brian" AND "Keyhole markup language" in US Patent Collection". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  18. ^ "OGC® Approves KML as Open Standard - OGC". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  19. ^ Jennings, Ken (2011). Maphead : charting the wide, weird world of geography wonks. S. McArthur (1st Scribner hardcover ed.). New York: Scribner. ISBN 978-1-4391-6717-5. OCLC 687665983.
  20. ^ Kilday, Bill (2018). Never lost again : the Google mapping revolution that sparked new industries and augmented our reality (First ed.). New York, NY. ISBN 978-0-06-267304-6. OCLC 994315355.

External links[edit]