National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin defies categorization: he is at once an explorer, engineer, scientist, archaeologist, technologist, and more.
After completing a Ph.D in materials science and engineering at the University of California, San Diego, Lin attracted the National Geographic Society’s attention with a proposal to use remote sensing technology to search for the tomb of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol empire who died in 1227 and whose burial place has eluded discovery since. The project was funded, and Lin went to work using ground-penetrating radar, satellite imagery, and other technology in search of the tomb.
The tomb’s location remains a mystery, but the methods Lin developed and deployed in his search became instrumental in similar searches for the First Emperor’s tomb in China and Mayan temples in northern Guatemala.
Lin’s methods are noteworthy for their subtlety: traditional archaeological techniques such as digging can be anathema in some cultures and locations. Genghis Khan’s tomb, for example, is thought to be on the Burkhan Khaldun, a sacred mountain. Employing technology in their searches allows Lin and his teams to respect the beliefs of indigenous people.
Lin credits his knack for employing novel methods of exploration to his training as an engineer, saying “I found huge questions I wanted to answer. I started applying my engineering mindset to try and find ways to answer them.”
More recently, Lin hosted the show Lost Cities with Albert Lin on the National Geographic Channel, employing his signature techniques to survey important archaeological sites like Stonehenge and Petra.
Asked what drives him to continue exploring, Lin says it is the perpetual search for the root sources of human imagination. “I have found diversity in all aspects of culture, and the source of that diversity intrigues me in a similar way to how biological diversity must have intrigued the early naturalists,” he said.
Watch Lin on his latest adventure in Welcome to Earth, a six-part limited series from National Geographic. Now streaming on Disney+.