Ian McHarg was born in Scotland and was educated in landscape architecture and city planning at Harvard after serving in World War II. He has been called a "true pioneer of the environmental movement," perhaps because he vehemently believed that design should be concerned with and respect the natural environment, as well as the needs and desires of humans.
He founded the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Landscape Architecture. His 1969 book, Design with Nature, a work revered in the environmental movement as well as in planning, laid out his ideas on land use planning, landscape architecture, and ecological planning. The book also explored some of the basic concepts that would later become Geographic Information Systems (GIS).