Brian McClendon

Brian A 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.

Brian McClendon
Brian McClendon 7-21-11.jpg
Personal details
Born1964 (age 58–59)
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseBeth Ellyn McClendon
EducationUniversity of Kansas, Lawrence (BS)

Early lifeEdit

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]


Early yearsEdit

McClendon spent eight years with Silicon Graphics developing high-end workstation 3D graphics including GT, GTX, RealityEngine, and InfiniteReality, and then worked as an 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 served as a board member and later joined the company as vice president of engineering.


When Google acquired Keyhole in 2004, McClendon became a director of engineering [6] for Google Geo, a team focussed on geospatial data visualization applications. He was later promoted to vice president, overseeing the Geo team.[7]

Keyhole's main application suite, Earth Viewer, and Keyhole Markup Language (KML), formed the basis for Google Earth. Under McClendon's tenure, Google Geo products included Google Maps, Google Maps API, Street View, Google Local Search, Panoramio, Sketchup, Waze, Google Earth, and Google Earth Engine. Brian was also instrumental in the creation of Google Santa Tracker[8]


He left Google to join Uber in June 2015 to work on mapping and machine learning.[9]


In November, 2021, McClendon joined Niantic as a senior vice president of augmented reality, research and mapping[10]


In March 2017, McClendon resigned his full-time role at Uber, though remaining an adviser, in order to return to his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, indicating an interest in politics.[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 Republican candidate Scott Schwab.[14]

Teaching and philanthropyEdit

McClendon maintains 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.[15]

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.[16] His research subjects include machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and world-scale mapping.[16]

Awards and recognitionsEdit

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 Champions of the Earth in 2013, which is its top environmental prize, "for harnessing the power of technology to support conservation and green economic development."[17]

McClendon holds 41 issued patents,[18] including thirteen relating to KML,[19] 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.[20]

Depiction in mediaEdit

  • 2012: Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings[21]
  • 2018: Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution That Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality by Bill Kilday[22]
  • 2021: The Billion Dollar Code: The German Netflix drama about the creation of the Terravision program and the subsequent 2014 patent infringement lawsuit against Google, contains a fictional character called Brian Andersson which is a composite of McClendon and Michael T. Jones.[23][24]
  • 2012: On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does by Simon Garfield[25]
  • 2013: On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield[26]


  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. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  4. ^ "Lawrence Pinpointed as Center of Google Earth". Lawrence Journal World. December 21, 2005.
  5. ^ "Brian McClendon: Alumni Spotlight". University of Kansas Center for Undergraduate Research. February 2014. Archived from the original on June 13, 2021. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  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. ^ "Tracking Santa: the Backstory". Official Google Blog. Google. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  9. ^ "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
  10. ^ Dorrian, Blythe (December 7, 2021). "Former Google, Uber exec joins maker of Pokémon Go — and he's building a team of developers in Lawrence". Startland News. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  11. ^ "Uber's Head of Mapping Leaves, Wants to go Home". USA Today. March 20, 2017.
  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. ^ "Google's Brian McClendon to serve as grand marshal for KU Homecoming parade". University of Kansas. September 13, 2013.
  16. ^ a b "Brian McClendon". University of Kansas Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  17. ^ "University of Kansas Honorary Degrees profile for Brian McClendon". October 14, 2015. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  18. ^ "US Patent Database Search Results: IN/"McCLendon, Brian" in US Patent Collection". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  19. ^ "Patent Database Search Results: IN/"McCLendon, Brian" AND "Keyhole markup language" in US Patent Collection". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  20. ^ "OGC Approves KML as Open Standard". OGC. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Kilday, Bill (2018). Never Lost Again: the Google mapping revolution that sparked new industries and augmented our reality (First ed.). New York, New York. ISBN 978-0-06-267304-6. OCLC 994315355.
  23. ^ Jungen, Oliver. "The Billion Dollar Code: David gegen Googliath". Frankfurter Allgemeine (in German).
  24. ^ Bar-Zeev, Avi (October 24, 2021). "Was Google Earth Stolen? (no)". Medium.
  25. ^ Garfield, Simon (2012). On the map : why the world looks the way it does. London: Profile. ISBN 978-1-84668-509-5. OCLC 819941645.
  26. ^ Garfield, Simon (2013). On the map : a mind-expanding exploration of the way the world looks. New York, New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1-59240-779-8. OCLC 795167619.

External linksEdit