Randall Munroe

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Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe balancing a stack of rubber ducks on a diner table.
Randall Munroe with rubber ducks in 2008
Born Randall Patrick Munroe
(1984-10-17) October 17, 1984 (age 31)[1][2]
Easton, Pennsylvania, USA
Nationality American
Area(s) Pen and pencil
Webcomics, Physics
Notable works
xkcd, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Randall Patrick Munroe (born October 17, 1984)[1][2] is an American cartoonist, author, and the creator of the webcomic xkcd. He and the webcomic have developed a cult following, and after leaving NASA, he became a professional webcomic artist.[3]

Early life[edit]

Munroe was raised as a Quaker.[4] He was a fan of the funny pages from an early age,[3] starting off with Calvin and Hobbes.[5] After graduating from the Chesterfield County Mathematics and Science High School at Clover Hill, a Renaissance Program, he graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2006 with a degree in physics.[6][7]



Munroe worked as an Independent contracting roboticist for NASA at the Langley Research Center[8] before and after his graduation. In October 2006 NASA did not renew his contract[9] and he began to write xkcd full-time. He now supports himself by the sale of xkcd related merchandise.[3][10] The webcomic quickly became very popular, garnering up to 70 million hits a month by October 2007.[11]

He has also toured the lecture circuit, giving speeches at such places as Google's Googleplex in Mountain View, California.[12]


Main article: xkcd
"Wikipedian Protester", published on xkcd.com with title-text "SEMI-PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION"

xkcd is primarily a stick figure comic with themes in computer science, technology, mathematics, science, philosophy, language, pop culture and romance.

Munroe had originally used xkcd as an instant messaging screenname because he wanted a name without a meaning so he wouldn't eventually grow tired of it.[10] He registered the domain name, but left it idle until he started posting his drawings in September 2005.[13] The webcomic has a loyal fanbase. Munroe said, "I think the comic that's gotten me the most feedback is actually the one about the stoplights".[11][14]

Munroe licenses his xkcd creations under the Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial 2.5, stating that it isn't just about the free culture movement, but that it also makes good business sense.[10] His income derives from the sale of merchandise to his fans, sales consisting of thousands of t-shirts a month.[3]

The popularity of the strip among science fiction fans resulted in Munroe being nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist in 2011 and again in 2012.[15] In 2014, he won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story for Time.[16]

Other projects[edit]

Various doses of radioactivity in sieverts, ranging from trivial to lethal.

Munroe is the creator of the now defunct websites "The Funniest",[17] "The Cutest",[18] and "The Fairest",[19] each of which presents users with two options and asks them to choose one over the other.

He started the "WetRiffs" website as a joke, one month after drawing the "Rule 34" comic,[20] "lamenting the lack of guitar-in-the-shower pictures on the internet."[21]

LimerickDB encouraged the creation of new and the collection of old limericks,[22] but is no longer accessible.

He started a Geohashing wiki based on one of his comics which contains an algorithm that generates pseudo-random coordinates around the world every day.[23]

He has also started a project called "What if?" where users post questions to the website which are usually absurd and physics/math related, and he answers them using his own knowledge as well as various sources from the web. In 2014, he published collection of some of the responses in a book called "What if? : serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions" through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In response to concerns about the radioactivity released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and to remedy what he described as "confusing" reporting on radiation levels in the media, Munroe created a chart of comparative radiation exposure levels. The chart was rapidly adopted by print and online journalists in several countries, including being linked to by online writers for The Guardian[24] and The New York Times.[25] As a result of requests for permission to reprint the chart and to translate it into Japanese, Munroe placed it in the public domain, but requested that his non-expert status should be clearly stated in any reprinting.[26]

Munroe published an xkcd-style comic on scientific publishing and open access in Science in October 2013.[27]

On May 13, 2015 Munroe announced a new book called Thing Explainer where he will explain concepts using only the 1,000 most common English words.[28]


In September 2013, Munroe announced that a group of xkcd readers had submitted his name as a candidate for the renaming of asteroid (4942) 1987 DU6 to 4942 Munroe. The name was accepted by the International Astronomical Union.[29][30][31]

Personal life[edit]

As of May 2008, Munroe lived in Somerville, Massachusetts.[3]

Munroe announced in June 2011 that his fiancée had been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer,[32] and in September that they had married.[33]

Munroe enjoys kite photography, in which cameras are attached to kites and pictures are then taken of the ground or buildings.[34]


Publications by Munroe[edit]

Publications with contributions by Munroe[edit]


  1. ^ a b Munroe, Randall (1984-10-17). "About". Facebook. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  2. ^ a b "Difference between revisions of "Denizens"". XKCD Wiki. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Cohen, Noam (2008-05-26). "This Is Funny Only if You Know Unix". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  4. ^ Munroe, Randall. "What If? - Catch!". I was raised Quaker; I've never held a gun, much less fired one. 
  5. ^ @Google Talks (venue) (2007-12-11). Authors@Google: Randall Munroe (Adobe Flash) (Digital video). Mountain View, California: Google. Event occurs at 24:13. Retrieved 2008-09-25. ...Calvin and Hobbes was the first comic that I discovered. 
  6. ^ Munroe, Randall. "About". xkcd. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  7. ^ "582 students receive diplomas from Christopher Newport University". Christopher Newport University. 2006-05-17. Archived from the original on 2014-01-01. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  8. ^ "Authors@Google: Randall Munroe". @Google Talks. Mountain View, California: Google. 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  9. ^ Munroe, Randall (October 6, 2006). "Many news [sic] things, some overdue". xkcd: The blag of the webcomic. WordPress. Job. Archived from the original on August 24, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2014. My about page mentions that I work for NASA — I’m technically a contractor working repeated contracts for them. However, they recently ran out of money to rehire me for another contract, so I’m done there for now. 
  10. ^ a b c Fernandez, Rebecca (2006-10-12). "xkcd: A comic strip for the computer geek". Red Hat Magazine (Raleigh, North Carolina: Red Hat). Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  11. ^ a b So, Adrienne (2007-11-13). "Real Geek Heart Beats in Xkcd's Stick Figures". Wired (San Francisco: Condé Nast Publications). ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  12. ^ Spertus, Ellen (2007-12-21). "Randall Munroe's visit to Google (xkcd)". Beyond Satire. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  13. ^ @Google Talks (venue) (2007-12-11). Authors@Google: Randall Munroe (Adobe Flash) (Digital video). Mountain View, California: Google. Event occurs at 48:05. Retrieved 2008-09-25. I'm pretty sure I started in September 2005. 
  14. ^ "Long Light". 
  15. ^ "Hugo Awards 2012 nomination". Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  16. ^ "Hugo Awards 2014 nomination". Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "The Funniest". 
  18. ^ "The Cutest". 
  19. ^ "The Fairest". 
  20. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Rule 34". xkcd. 
  21. ^ Munroe, Randall (2008-03-18). "Nudity + Guitars + Showers". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  22. ^ Munroe, Randall (2008-02-04). "LimerickDB.com". Blag. xkcd. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  23. ^ "Geohashing Wiki". 
  24. ^ Monbiot, George (2011-03-21). "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  25. ^ Revkin, Andrew (2011-03-23). "The 'Dread to Risk' Ratio on Radiation and other Discontents". Dot Earth blog (The New York Times). Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  26. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Radiation Chart". www.xkcd.com. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  27. ^ Munroe, Randall (4 October 2013). "The Rise of Open Access". Science 342 (6154): 58–59. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.58. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  28. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (May 13, 2015). "XKCD has a new book about explaining complicated subjects in simple ways". The Verge. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  29. ^ "4942 Munroe (1987 DU6)". http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  30. ^ Hulbert, Lewis "Mystaceus" (2013-09-25). "I named a main-belt asteroid after Randall Munroe". http://mystaceus.tumblr.com/. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  31. ^ "Asteroid 4942 Munroe". http://blog.xkcd.com/. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  32. ^ "Family Illness". Blog. XKCD. Jun 30, 2011. 
  33. ^ Munroe (Sep 12, 2011). "<3". Blog. XKCD. 
  34. ^ Kuchera, Ben (2 July 2007). "The joys of kite photography". Ars Technica. 

External links[edit]