John earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geological Engineering at the University of Minnesota, with graduate work in Industrial Engineering. He was on the faculty of Ohio State University, University of Nebraska, and the University of Minnesota for some 22 years and ended his academic career as Visiting Faculty at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, where he taught geology and courses on Antarctica.
Most of his geologic fieldwork was in Antarctica (eight summer field seasons, from 1960-61 to 1985-86), as well as other fieldwork in remote parts of the world where his research was on wind erosion and geomorphology. He traveled and did geologic field work on each of the continents, specifically in Alaska, Greenland, Lapland, Spitsbergen, Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Arctic Canada, Siberia, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Atacama Desert in Chile, Easter Island, Sinai Desert, Falkland Islands and Japan.
He was a part-time lecturer/naturalist beginning in 1983, participating in more than 100 cruises to Antarctica and most of the sub-Antarctic islands, as well as on 45 cruises to the Arctic and sub-Arctic, including Arctic Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Iceland, Alaska, Russian Far East, Northwest Passage, Northeast Passage, as well as other remote locations. He was a staff lecturer on the 65-day circumnavigation cruise of Antarctica in 1996-97. His work took him to all three of the South and North poles: geographic, geomagnetic and magnetic.
Since the formation of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) in 1991, John represented the group at seven consultative Meetings of the Antarctic Treaty nations and also testified on Antarctic science and tourism legislation in the U.S. House and Senate in Washington, D.C. From 1988 to 1990 he was on the American Geophysical Union Public Policy Speaker Program, where he presented seminars at U.S. universities and the University of Bern, Switzerland.
John authored more than 175 publications in his field, including five books (edited) and received two polar medals (U.S. and U.S.S.R.) for his work in Antarctica, where he both a glacier and a mountain are named for him. He earned four military medals for his service with the U.S. Army in Korea. He was President (2002-04) of the Antarctican Society, based in Washington, D.C., and also President of the American Polar Society (2003-06). John was born, lived, and died in Waconia, Minnesota, U.S.A.