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Denis Wood was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Nancy and Jasper Wood. In his elementary school years he lived with his brothers, Chris and Pete, in a federal housing project just above the Cuyahoga River. Later the family moved to Cleveland Heights where for ten years Wood delivered The Plain Dealer. While attending Western Reserve University, from which he graduated with honors in English (1967), he worked unloading ore boats as a laborer, oiler, and larry car operator on Republic Steel’s Upper Docks. Wood received his master’s (1971) and doctorate (1973) degrees in geography from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. There he met and married Ingrid Hansen with whom he would have two children, Randall and Chandler. He and his wife traveled in Mexico and lived in Puerto Rico, before returning to Worcester where for two years he taught in North High School’s Adjunct School.

    From 1974 until 1996 Wood taught environmental psychology and design at the College of Design at North Carolina State University where he was Professor of Design and Landscape Architecture. During these years he wrote extensively about film and maps. Author of The Power of Maps (Guilford Press, 1992), Wood also curated the award-winning Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design exhibition of the same name (1992), which he subsequently mounted at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington (1994). With Robert J. Beck he co-authored Home Rules (1994) about the transmission of culture that occurs in the process of “living a room.” He also taught in the International relations program at Duke University.

   In August 1995 he was charged with, and in April 1996 pled guilty to, crimes against nature (fellatio) and taking indecent liberties with a minor. He was sentenced to six years active time on the former, and five years probation on the latter charge. He served the entire sentence. He was released in June 1998, shortly after completing the manuscript about his prison experience that would became My Kind of Time (forthcoming).

   Following a brief, legislatively mandated parole, he began the probationary sentence which was soon terminated. North Carolina State University terminated his appointment early in 1998. Later that year his wife, Ingrid, divorced him, despite which they are often seen together. He continues to live in Raleigh as a writer and artist. His Seeing Through Maps: The Power of Images to Shape Our World View, co-authored with Ward L. Kaiser, was published in 2001 by ODT. Guilford published Wood’s Five Billion Years of Global Change: A History of the Land in 2004, and Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS, co-authored with John Krygier, in 2005, when ODT brought out a second, revised edition of Seeing Through Maps. In 2008 the University of Chicago Press published The Natures of Maps: Cartographic Constructions of the Natural World, co-authored with John Fels.

   Wood exhibits and lectures widely.This American Life’s Ira Glass interviewed Wood about his Boylan Heights atlas project in 1998; subsequently the completed portion of the atlas has been widely exhibited. As part of Arika’s Shadowed Spaces Tour, Wood lectured throughout Scotland in 2007. In 2008 he gave a plenary address on the future of maps to the Royal Geographical Society in London. In 2010 Guilford published Rethinking the Power of Maps, while Siglio brought out Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas. In 2011 Guilford published a second, significantly revised edition of Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS. In 2013 Siglio published an enlarged edition of Everything Sings, including an interview with Wood by Blake Butler (originally published in The Believer) and afterwords by Albert Mobilio and Ander Monson.

   In 2015 the filmmakers Diane Hodson and Jasmine Luoma released unmappable, their film about Wood. It screened at a couple of dozen film festivals – South by Southwest, coast to coast, Mexico, Germany, Kosovo – where it collected numerous awards, several for best documentary short. The year also saw the publication by Guilford of Weaponizing Maps: Indigenous Peoples and Counterinsurgency in the Americas, which Wood wrote with Joe Bryan. Next year look for a third edition of Making Maps, and the release of Soft Time in a Hard Place, Wood’s prison book, under its original title.

© Denis Wood 2010 - 2020