Randall Patrick Munroe (born October 17, 1984)[1][2] is an American cartoonist, author, engineer, scientific theorist, and the creator of the webcomic xkcd. He and the webcomic have developed a large fanbase, and shortly after graduating from college, he became a professional webcomic artist.[3]

Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe ducks.JPG
Munroe with rubber ducks
BornRandall Patrick Munroe
(1984-10-17) October 17, 1984 (age 35)[1][2]
Easton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Area(s)Pen and pencil
webcomics, Physics
Notable works
xkcd, What If?, Thing Explainer, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

Early lifeEdit

Munroe was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, the son of an engineer.[4] He has two younger brothers, and was raised as a Quaker.[4][5][6] He was a fan of comic strips in newspapers from an early age,[3] starting off with Calvin and Hobbes.[7] After graduating from the Chesterfield County Mathematics and Science High School at Clover Hill, a Renaissance Program in Midlothian, Virginia, he graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2006 with a degree in physics.[8][9]



Munroe worked as a contract programmer and roboticist for NASA at the Langley Research Center[10][11] before and after his graduation. In October 2006 NASA did not renew his contract,[12] and he moved to Boston to begin writing xkcd full-time.[13]


"Wikipedian Protester", published on xkcd.com with title-text (tooltip): "SEMI-PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION".[14] On Wikipedia, semi-protected pages may not be edited by new or unregistered users.

xkcd is primarily a stick figure comic with themes in computer science, technology, mathematics, science, philosophy, language, pop culture, romance, and physics.[15]

Munroe had originally used xkcd as an instant messaging screenname because he wanted a name without a meaning so he would not eventually grow tired of it.[16] He registered the domain name, but left it idle until he started posting his drawings in September 2005.[17] The webcomic quickly became very popular, garnering up to 70 million hits a month by October 2007.[18] Munroe has said, "I think the comic that's gotten me the most feedback is actually the one about the stoplights".[18][19]

Munroe now supports himself by the sale of xkcd-related merchandise, primarily thousands of t-shirts a month.[3][16] He licenses his xkcd creations under the Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial 2.5, stating that it is not just about the free culture movement, but that it also makes good business sense.[16]

In 2010, he published a collection of the comics.[20] He has also toured the lecture circuit, giving speeches at places such as Google's Googleplex in Mountain View, California.[21]

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.[22] In 2014, he won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story for the xkcd strip "Time".[23]

Other projectsEdit

Various doses of radioactivity in sieverts, ranging from negligible to lethal

Munroe is the creator of the now defunct websites "The Funniest",[24] "The Cutest",[25] and "The Fairest",[26] each of which presents users with two options and asks them to choose one over the other.[citation needed]

In January 2008, Munroe developed an open-source chat moderation script named "Robot9000". Originally developed to moderate one of Munroe's xkcd-related IRC channels, the software's algorithm attempts to prevent repetition in IRC channels by temporarily muting users who send messages that are identical to a message that has been sent to the channel before. If users continue to send unoriginal messages, Robot9000 mutes the user for a longer period, quadrupling for each unoriginal message the user sends to the channel.[27] Shortly after Munroe's blog post about the script went live, 4chan administrator moot adapted the script to moderate the site's experimental /r9k/ board.[28] Twitch offers Robot9000 ("r9k mode") as an optional feature for broadcasters and moderators to use in their channels' chat boxes.[29]

In October 2008, The New Yorker magazine online published an interview and "Cartoon Off" between Munroe and Farley Katz, in which each cartoonist drew a series of four humorous cartoons.[30]

Munroe maintains a blog entitled What If?, where he answers questions sent in by fans of his comics. These questions are usually absurd and related to math or physics, and he explains them using both his knowledge and various academic sources. In 2014, he published a collection of some of the responses, as well as a few new ones and some rejected questions, in a book entitled What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.[20]

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[31] and The New York Times.[32] 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.[33]

Munroe published an xkcd-style comic on scientific publishing and open access in Science in October 2013.[34]

Munroe's book Thing Explainer, announced in May 2015 and published late that year, explains concepts using only the 1,000 most common English words.[20][35][36] The book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, saw these illustrations as potentially useful for textbooks, and announced in March 2016 that the next editions of their high school-level chemistry, biology, and physics textbooks will include selected drawings and accompanying text from Thing Explainer.[37][38]

In February 2019, Munroe announced his upcoming book How To, which was released on September 3 that year.[39][6]


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.[40][41]

Personal lifeEdit

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

In October 2010, his fiancée was diagnosed with breast cancer; there had been no prior family history.[42][43] The emotional effect of her illness was referenced in the comic panel "Emotion", published 18 months later in April 2012.[44] In September 2011, he announced that they had married.[45] In December 2017, Munroe summarized the time since his wife's cancer diagnosis in a comic entitled "Seven Years".[46]

His hobbies and interests include kite photography, in which cameras are attached to kites and photographs are then taken of the ground or buildings.[47]


Publications by MunroeEdit

  • xkcd: volume 0. Breadpig. 2009. ISBN 978-0-61531446-4.
  • What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. London: John Murray. 2014. ISBN 978-1-84854957-9.
  • Thing Explainer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. ISBN 978-0-54466825-6.
  • How To. John Murray. 2019. ISBN 978-0-52553709-0.

Publications with contributions by MunroeEdit


  1. ^ a b Munroe, Randall (1984-10-17). "About". Facebook. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  2. ^ a b "Difference between revisions of "Denizens"". XKCD Wiki. 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2014-01-28.
  3. ^ a b c d 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. ^ a b Tupponce, Joan. "A Cartoonist's Mind". Richmond Magazine.
  5. ^ Munroe, Randall. "What If? - Catch!". I was raised Quaker; I've never held a gun, much less fired one.
  6. ^ a b Martinelli, Marissa (September 6, 2019). "Xkcd Creator Randall Munroe on the Joys of Overthinking Everything". Slate. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  7. ^ @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.
  8. ^ Munroe, Randall. "About". xkcd. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ Lineberry, Denise (2012). "Robots or Webcomics? That was the Question". NASA.
  11. ^ "Authors@Google: Randall Munroe". @Google Talks. Mountain View, California. 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  12. ^ Munroe, Randall (2006-10-06). "Many news [sic] things, some overdue". xkcd: The blag of the webcomic. WordPress. Job. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 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.
  13. ^ "Robots or Webcomics? That was the Question". The Researcher. NASA. 2012-04-05.
  14. ^ "Wikipedian Protester". xkcd.com.
  15. ^ "xkcd - explain xkcd". www.explainxkcd.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  16. ^ a b c Fernandez, Rebecca (2006-10-12). "xkcd: A comic strip for the computer geek". Red Hat Magazine. Raleigh, North Carolina: Red Hat. Archived from the original on 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  17. ^ @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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Long Light".
  20. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (2015-11-23). "Randall Munroe Explains It All for Us". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Spertus, Ellen (2007-12-21). "Randall Munroe's visit to Google (xkcd)". Beyond Satire. Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  22. ^ "Hugo Awards 2012 nomination". Archived from the original on 2012-04-09. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
  23. ^ "Hugo Awards 2014 nomination". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  24. ^ "The Funniest". Archived from the original on 2006-12-05.
  25. ^ "The Cutest". Archived from the original on 2010-05-28.
  26. ^ "The Fairest".
  27. ^ ROBOT9000 and #xkcd-signal: Attacking Noise in Chat
  28. ^ Petersen, Kierran (October 2, 2015). "A short history of /r9k/ — the 4chan message board some believe may be connected to the Oregon shooting". Public Radio International. Retrieved May 18, 2018. Surprisingly enough, however, the /r9k/ board, otherwise known as ROBOT9001, was originally conceived as a way to increase the quality of messages on the wildly popular webcomic xkcd. It used a type of auto-moderation that prevented people from posting the same comment multiple times. [...] 4chan eventually moved the idea and software behind ROBOT9000 on to its site. They just added a one.
  29. ^ Twitch.tv: Chat Commands § Basic Commands for Broadcasters & All Moderators
  30. ^ Katz, Farley (October 15, 2008). "Cartoon-Off: XKCD". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 2015-04-01.
  31. ^ Monbiot, George (2011-03-21). "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  32. ^ Revkin, Andrew (2011-03-23). "The 'Dread to Risk' Ratio on Radiation and other Discontents". Dot Earth blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  33. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Radiation Chart". www.xkcd.com. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  34. ^ Munroe, Randall (2013-10-04). "The Rise of Open Access". Science. 342 (6154): 58–59. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.58. PMID 24092724. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  35. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (2015-05-13). "XKCD has a new book about explaining complicated subjects in simple ways". The Verge. Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  36. ^ Alderman, Naomi (2015-12-17). "Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe – funny, precise and beautifully designed". The Guardian.
  37. ^ Chang, Kenneth (2016-03-22). "Randall Munroe, XKCD Creator, Goes Back to High School". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-03-22.
  38. ^ Jao, Charlene (2016-03-23). "XKCD Creator Randall Munroe Making Content For High School Textbooks". The Mary Sue.
  39. ^ Munroe, Randall. "how to". xkcd. Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  40. ^ "4942 Munroe (1987 DU6)". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  41. ^ "Asteroid 4942 Munroe". xkcd | The blag of the webcomic. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  42. ^ "November - 2010 - xkcd". blog.xkcd.com. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  43. ^ "Family Illness". 30 June 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  44. ^ "xkcd: Emotion". xkcd.com. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  45. ^ Munroe (2011-09-12). "<3". Blog. XKCD.
  46. ^ Munroe (2017-12-13). "Seven Years". Webcomic. XKCD.
  47. ^ Kuchera, Ben (2007-07-02). "The joys of kite photography". Ars Technica.

External linksEdit