John Fox is a Harvard Ph.D. anthropologist who has excavated ancient ball courts in Central America, traced Marco Polo’s route across China, and bicycled Africa’s Rift Valley in search of human origins. He has contributed commentary to Vermont Public Radio, has written for Smithsonian, Outside, and Salon, among other publications, and in 2010 was awarded a MacDowell Colony fellowship. He is the author of Around the World with a Million Kids: Adventures of an Online Explorer, a collection of essays written while co-leading the groundbreaking Quest interactive educational expeditions. He lives in Boston.
That’s the short and sweet version, but like most sketches it only covers a fraction of the picture. Here is an extended bio that will appear in the the back of my book when it’s released.
John Fox was born and raised in the Inwood section of New York City. The apartment building where he grew up was built on the site of a 500-year old Lenape Indian village. Seventy years before he was born, when the rolling farmland of Manhattan’s northern shores first gave way to paved streets on a grid, ceremonially interred dog carcasses had been uncovered on his corner, just a few paces from where home base was traced in chalk for neighborhood stickball games.
When he wasn’t playing sports, John could often be found with a pack of friends exploring the Indian rockshelters tucked just above the Gaelic football field in Inwood Hill Park. The occasional pottery shard or arrowhead fragment lay just beneath the artifacts left by partying teens: mostly beer bottles and cigarette butts.
John left for college in Boston where he received a B.A. in archaeology from Boston University. As an undergrad he did fieldwork at a Roman village in the south of England, a 5,000-year-old cave in New Mexico, and a nineteenth-century mill house in Massachusetts. Hooked on the past, he went on to pursue his Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard University where he specialized in the ancient Maya civilization. Over multiple seasons he conducted field research in the wilds of Honduras, excavating ancient ball courts in an attempt to better understand the meaning and symbolism of the rubber ball game of ulama played by the Maya and neighboring civilizations. His articles interpreting this game were published in peer reviewed journals and remain required reading for students of the subject.
After receiving his Ph.D. and teaching at both of his alma maters, John left academia to join a groundbreaking online adventure learning program called the Quests. From 1998 to 2003 he co-led a team of explorers, biologists, photographers, videographers, and multimedia artists on ten educational expeditions across six continents. An online audience of about a million students and teachers, in 120 countries, logged on daily to set the course of the expedition.
Traveling by bicycle, canoe, and the occasional camel, he and his team explored some of the world’s most extraordinary places along with some of its greatest historical and scientific mysteries – human origins in the Rift Valley, the collapse of the ancient Maya civilization, Marco Polo’s fabled route across China, and the threatened tribes and wildlife of the Amazon rainforest, to name just a few.
The Quests won multiple educational awards and were cited by a Congressional Committee led by Senator John Glenn as a premier example of quality online learning. John appeared live on Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer from the top of a Maya temple. His field reports, many of which were syndicated at the time on CNN.com, were published in 2008 in his collection, Around the World with a Million Kids: Adventures of an Online Explorer.
He has written articles for Outside, Smithsonian, Salon, and other publications, and has been a regular commentator on sports and culture for Vermont Public Radio. In 2010 John was awarded a fellowship to The MacDowell Colony where he completed portions of The Ball.
John lives just outside Boston with his wife, Stephanie, their children, Amelia and Aidan, and their half-Retriever, Eliot, who only half-retrieves balls.