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]

Early life

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] He was a fan of comic strips in newspapers from an early age,[3] starting off with Calvin and Hobbes.[6] 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.[7][8]



Munroe worked as a contract programmer and roboticist for NASA at the Langley Research Center[9][10] before and after his graduation. In October 2006 NASA did not renew his contract[11] and he moved to Boston to begin writing xkcd full-time.[12]


"Wikipedian Protester", published on with title-text (tooltip): "SEMI-PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION".[13] On, semi-protected pages cannot 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.[14]

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.[15] He registered the domain name, but left it idle until he started posting his drawings in September 2005.[16] The webcomic quickly became very popular, garnering up to 70 million hits a month by October 2007.[17] Munroe has said, "I think the comic that's gotten me the most feedback is actually the one about the stoplights".[17][18]

Munroe now supports himself by the sale of xkcd-related merchandise, primarily thousands of t-shirts a month.[3][15] 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.[15]

In 2010, he published a collection of the comics.[19] He has also toured the lecture circuit, giving speeches at places such as Google's Googleplex in Mountain View, California.[20]

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

Other projects

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

Munroe is the creator of the now defunct websites "The Funniest",[23] "The Cutest",[24] and "The Fairest",[25] each of which presents users with two options and asks them to choose one over the other.[citation needed]

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.[26]

Munroe maintains a blog titled What If?, where he answers questions sent in by fans of his comics. These questions are usually absurd in nature and related to math or physics, and he answers them using both his own 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 titled What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.[19]

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[27] and The New York Times.[28] 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.[29]

Munroe published an xkcd-style comic on scientific publishing and open access in Science in October 2013.[30]

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.[19][31][32] 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.[33][34]


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.[35][36]

Personal life

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.[37][38] The emotional effect of the illness was referenced in the comic panel "Emotion", published 18 months later in April 2012.[39] In September 2011, he announced that they had married.[40] In December 2017, Munroe summarized the time since his wife's cancer diagnosis in a comic titled "Seven Years".[41]

His hobbies and interests include kite photography, in which cameras are attached to kites and pictures are then taken of the ground or buildings.[42]


Publications by Munroe

Publications with contributions by Munroe


  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. ^ @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. 
  7. ^ Munroe, Randall. "About". xkcd. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ Lineberry, Denise (2012). "Robots or Webcomics? That was the Question". NASA. 
  10. ^ "Authors@Google: Randall Munroe". @Google Talks. Mountain View, California: Google. 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ "Robots or Webcomics? That was the Question". The Researcher. NASA. 2012-04-05. 
  13. ^ "Wikipedian Protester". 
  14. ^ "xkcd - explain xkcd". Retrieved 2017-03-03. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ @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. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ "Long Light". 
  19. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (2015-11-23). "Randall Munroe Explains It All for Us". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ Spertus, Ellen (2007-12-21). "Randall Munroe's visit to Google (xkcd)". Beyond Satire. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  21. ^ "Hugo Awards 2012 nomination". Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  22. ^ "Hugo Awards 2014 nomination". Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  23. ^ "The Funniest". 
  24. ^ "The Cutest". 
  25. ^ "The Fairest". 
  26. ^ Katz, Farley (October 15, 2008). "Cartoon-Off: XKCD". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 2015-04-01. 
  27. ^ Monbiot, George (2011-03-21). "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Radiation Chart". Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  30. ^ Munroe, Randall (2013-10-04). "The Rise of Open Access". Science. 342 (6154): 58–59. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.58. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  31. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (2015-05-13). "XKCD has a new book about explaining complicated subjects in simple ways". The Verge. Retrieved 2015-05-14. 
  32. ^ Alderman, Naomi (2015-12-17). "Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe – funny, precise and beautifully designed". The Guardian. 
  33. ^ Chang, Kenneth (2016-03-22). "Randall Munroe, XKCD Creator, Goes Back to High School". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  34. ^ Jao, Charlene (2016-03-23). "XKCD Creator Randall Munroe Making Content For High School Textbooks". The Mary Sue. 
  35. ^ "4942 Munroe (1987 DU6)". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  36. ^ "Asteroid 4942 Munroe". xkcd The blag of the webcomic. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  37. ^ Blog:November 2010
  38. ^ Blog: June 2011
  39. ^ Emotion
  40. ^ Munroe (2011-09-12). "<3". Blog. XKCD. 
  41. ^ Munroe (2017-12-13). "Seven Years". Webcomic. XKCD. 
  42. ^ Kuchera, Ben (2007-07-02). "The joys of kite photography". Ars Technica. 

External links

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