The Book

Published by O'Reilly Media.

Welcome to the home on the web of the book The Geek Atlas. It's the place geeks share their travel tips, stories, videos and more.

Read an excerpt or two, browse the table of contents or get a preview.

Book Buzz

ZDNet UK says "The science is accurate, the places well-chosen, the writing clear and to the point. What's not to like?".

The Sunday Times travels the world with The Geek Atlas and was brave enough to include the science. gives The Geek Atlas a 10 out of 10 rating and says it's "A fascinating and enjoyable read."

A short film and article featuring me and The Geek Atlas from the BBC. Plus a review.

BlogCritics reviews The Geek Atlas and recommends it for a rainy Saturday afternoon's armchair traveling. has an article I wrote with a slide show about The Geek Atlas.

PCWorld has a review and slide show of the book.

NewScientist says "Don't leave home without your guide to 128 places of scientific or technological wonder."

Wired/GeekDad's full review says The Geek Atlas is "incredibly informative, accessible, and challenging."

Epinions has a long review that says "You'd better believe it's Highly Recommended!"

The Times (of London) takes a tour around London with The Geek Atlas.

The Irish Times says that The Geek Atlas contains "scintillating geek destinations in 20 countries."

Dr Dobbs Code Talk says that the book is "an inspiring collection of 128 places around the world" and "compelling and well written."

Leo Laporte says The Geek Atlas is "really cool" and "a great idea", and "I love this stuff".

InfoWorld says "[The Geek Atlas] is a blast."

CNET calls The Geek Atlas "a compendium of locations of true worth in the history of science and tech breakthroughs" and "a fun summer read."

Steve Gibson of says The Geek Atlas is "SPECTACULAR."

Read all the reviews


Latest Activity

Profile Iconmichael dee, Lemuel Kish and Philip Dickenson Peters joined The Geek Atlas
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Nov 26, 2012
John Graham-Cumming commented on John Graham-Cumming's blog post Travels with a Geek
"Yes, The Greenwich Observatory is in The Geek Atlas. Chapter 49 covers Greenwich including the Prime Meridian, The National Maritime Museum and The Royal Observatory. There are many other locations in London as well."
Oct 15, 2012
Thomas Latcham commented on John Graham-Cumming's blog post Travels with a Geek
"DR Graham Cumming I would like to ask you this please. Did you include The Greenwhich Observatory  in your book? The book sounds fascinating. I think I would like to buy a copy oneday. And I only mention the observatory as it is about the only…"
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Blog Posts

Welcome to The Geek Atlas home page


I'm John Graham-Cumming, author of The Geek Atlas, and administrator of this web site. I've set up this site so that readers of the book can contribute their photos, videos, trip reports, and anything else they feel is interesting concerning the places in the book.

To help keep track of the connection between the book and this web site please follow two rules when adding stuff: use the Tags feature to tag what you are adding with the chapter number in the book.… Continue

Posted by John Graham-Cumming on May 15, 2009 at 11:08am


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Author Blog

Tempio Voltiano

At the bottom tip of Lake Como one of the most (if not the) most over-the-top memorials to a scientist is found sitting on the edge of the lake. The Tempio Voltiano is a temple built to commemorate the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta (who, amongst other things, invented the battery). Built in 1927 the temple depicts Volta as a classical figure. In central Como there's a statue of Volta (on the Piazza Alessandro Volta) with the scientist draped in robes as if he were a figure from the Roman era.

The temple itself continues the theme, with statues representing science (on the left of the entrance) and the Roman goddess Fides (Goddess of trust).

And the interior is similarly grand with an inlaid floor of marble, alabaster and other stones. The circular  layout follows the progression of science that Volta worked from the left to right with the dates engraved in the stonework.

The actual exhibition is a little disappointing. In 1899 Como put on an enormous exhibition celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Volta's invention of the battery. A massive fire broke out and many of Volta's original instruments and creations (including his batteries) were destroyed. The temple contains those artifacts that remain augmented by reconstructions based on parts that were recovered.

Nevertheless it's here that you can see some of the first batteries ever created. Such as this Voltaic Pile:

And there's a good display of other batteries made by Volta using a variety of metals and electrolytes (some of them dry and some of the wet technologies):

And here's some equipment used for electrolysis to see what gases are generated at the anode and cathode.

Volta's invention came about because of Galvani's investigation of 'animal electricity' that appeared to be exhibited when frogs' legs moved when placed in contact with two different metals. Volta didn't believe Galvani's explanation of the presence of electricity in animals, but rather thought the the contact of the metals and the legs was creating electricity. In disproving Galvani he invented the battery.

Also, on display is equipment that Volta used to measure the electromotive force by balancing weights against two charged plates to measure the force required to separate them. And there's a display of capacitors (which he called 'condensors' because the electricity was thought to 'condense' on the plates).

If you visit the museum be sure to ask for the handout in English that describes all of the numbered exhibits and buy the 6 Euro English-language "Guide to the Volta Temple" which is well worth reading as it covers the history of the building and Volta's inventions in detail.

O Atlas Geek: 128 Lugares Onde a Ciência e a Tecnologia Ganham Vida (The Geek Atlas in Portuguese)

At the start of June, The Geek Atlas will be published in Portuguese by publisher Editora Altabooks (it's also available in German):
Os 128 locais abordados neste livro compõem uma lista pessoal de lugares para visitar onde a ciência, a matemática e a tecnologia aconteceram ou acontecem. Você não encontrará pequenos e tediosos museus de terceira categoria, ou placas presas à parede indicando que “o Professor X dormiu aqui” entre os locais selecionados. Cada lugar possui real interesse científico, matemático ou tecnológico.

Nem todos os lugares apresentam invenções ou descobertas humanas. Há também fenômenos naturais, como o variável Polo Norte Magnético e a Aurora Boreal. E há também alguns túmulos de cientistas famosos, mas tenha a certeza de que há equações neles.

Cada lugar tem seu próprio capítulo e cada capítulo é dividido em três partes: uma introdução geral sobre o local, com ênfase em sua importância científica, matemática ou tecnológica; um assunto técnico relacionado, abordado em maiores detalhes; e informações práticas sobre a visitação. O livro pode ser usado como um verdadeiro guia de viagens (e espero que você tenha a oportunidade de visitar alguns desses lugares), mas também pelo viajante de poltrona, a quem espero inspirar a deixar este livro de lado para aprender um pouco mais sobre a ciência, a matemática e a tecnologia aqui abordadas...

More details.

The Geek Atlas and Japan Disaster Relief

Today, March 22, my book The Geek Atlas is part of a special O'Reilly Deal of the Day. Here are the details:
O'Reilly, No Starch Press, and Tidbits will donate all revenues, less author royalties, from "Deal of the Day" sales to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Thanks to the Internet, we understand more deeply than ever that everyone on the planet is connected. The disasters that have hit Japan feel close to home, and those of us at O'Reilly, No Starch, and Tidbits want to do something to help the Japanese people recover and rebuild. We know many of you do, too. Working with the O'Reilly Tokyo office, we will ensure that your valued contribution goes to the relief of those most in need. We'll update the total amount donated throughout the day, as well as the final amount.
That's a great deal since all the revenue will go to the Japanese Red Cross. You can take advantage of this deal with the code DDJPN.

But there's one part that makes me uncomfortable. Although O'Reilly is giving almost every penny they receive to this cause, they are going to pay me my royalty. That's 10% of whatever people pay O'Reilly for the eBook of The Geek Atlas using that code.

I can't in good conscience promote this deal and then accept money. So, if you buy The Geek Atlas eBook today using that code please email me the receipt from O'Reilly and I will donate 10% of what you paid O'Reilly to the Japanese Red Cross so that 100% of what you pay to O'Reilly ends up helping victims of the earthquake and tsunami, and so that I don't profit from this disaster.

Geek Weekend: Charles Darwin's Home

A few weekends ago I went to visit Down House where Charles Darwin and his family lived from 1842. It's very close to London and an easy drive. The house is managed by English Heritage and contains a combination of restored rooms and an exhibition covering Darwin, his family life and his work. It was completely restored in 1996.

The museum explains how Darwin ended up thinking about natural selection and contains a large selection from Darwin's own collection. There are his original notebooks on display as well as items he collected, such as these Galapagos finches:

His family life is covered, including the death of his daughter Annie aged 10. This log book details Darwin's observations of his daughter's health and treatments tried.

It's clear that Darwin had a lot of affection for his children. This is a slide he had built that attached to the staircase inside the house to his children could slide down on pillows.

The museum has many parts that are suitable for children. Here's a game that explains how traits are passed down in birds and there's another that shows the link between the number of cats at Down House and the amount of clover growing on the lawn (cats kill mice, mice attack bee hives, bees pollinate; increase the cats and you get more clover).

Darwin himself wasn't averse to a good game. There's a room in the house dedicated to billiards where Darwin would go to relax from the strain of the public reaction to his theory of natural selection.

In his study, there's his armchair which he modified so that it had wheels attached. This allowed him to scoot around the room to get books or specimens without having to get up. Since he would be sitting with a board across his lap for writing it was more efficient to glide around.

Lest you think Darwin was physically lazy any trip should end at the bottom of the large garden with a walk around Darwin's sandy thinking path inside a copse. Darwin had it constructed so he could take a daily constitutional walk while thinking. He would walk around the path using a pile of stones to count the number of circuits he'd done while thinking.


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