Remembering Michael Jones — the Creator of Google Earth

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Michael Jones, the creator of Google Earth, passed away on January 18th. His passing is a great loss not only for the field of cartography and geospatial intelligence, but for the billions around the world whose lives his genius transformed.

Michael Jones
Copyright © Jarle Naustvik 2011

Michael Jones was a true trailblazer. As the former Chief Technology Advocate at Google, he was responsible for leading the development of one of the most revolutionary and popular mapping platforms of our time: Google Earth. This platform not only made it easier for people to access and explore maps of the world, but it also democratised the field of cartography by making it accessible to people of all backgrounds and skill levels.

“Michael Jones’s work has been nothing short of revolutionary. His ability to blend technology and user-centric approach has redefined the field of cartography, and his contributions will continue to be felt for generations to come,” commented Baroness Lynda Chalker, President of the Royal Geographical Society.

Jones understood that the key to making geography accessible was to create a platform that was not only functional, but also intuitive and engaging. Google Earth was the result of this approach, and it became one of the most widely used mapping platforms in the world, with millions of people using it to explore the world around them.

In 2020, Jones was recognised for his outstanding contributions to the field by being awarded the Society’s Patron’s Gold Medal. This prestigious award is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of geospatial information. It is a testament to the impact that Jones had on the field.

“Everyone is inventive,” Jones later commented in an interview. “You need only ignore limits and ask yourself ‘how should it be?'”

“Inventors are just laborers toiling to make things be as we feel they should,” he said. “For me, a key trait is passion for ideas, loving them as parents love children and grandchildren: embracing them, sacrificing for them, excusing the worst and believing the best of them, being patient and supportive with an enduring love as they mature. Like children, they take time to develop into the brightness of their promise. I have been this way all my life.”

Jones’s work has not only made the world more accessible, but it has also changed the way we understand and interact with it. His vision to redefine mapping from static lines and symbols to an interactive geographical web of context and information has left a lasting impact on the field. This innovation will continue to shape the way we understand and interact with the world around us.

Jones’s legacy continues to be an inspiration for those working towards making the world a more accessible and understandable place. His name will go down in history as the man who transformed the map as we knew it, forever.