Thomas Dolby

Professor of the Arts

90 Gilman Hall
Personal Website


For over two decades, Thomas Dolby Robertson has combined music and technology to great effect. The advent of MTV brought Thomas his initial exposure in the early 1980s: his intelligent videos stood out from the pack, and his songs "She Blinded Me With Science" and "Hyperactive" became huge hits that have stood the test of time. His keyboard and production work put him in the studio with the likes of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Joni Mitchell, and George Clinton. Numerous awards and five GrammyTM nominations later, Thomas has achieved worldwide recognition as an artist.

Recognizing the opportunities for digital distribution of music, Dolby started Beatnik Inc. licensed technology to Nokia to co-develop the first embedded software synthesis “polyphonic” ringtone engine for mass-market devices. For 12 years, Dolby also served as musical director of the TED Conferences. His first new studio album in two decades, A Map of the Floating City, received critical acclaim and was accompanied by the multiuser social networking game.

Thomas created The Floating City Game, a multiuser online game to support the release of his CD, A Map of the Floating City. Over the course of three months, over 10,000 players took part. The game was free to play, and ran in an average web browser, using Google Map technology overlaid with a fictional map loaded with places and objects from Thomas’ lyric catalog. Set in a dystopian future world, players joined one of nine tribes and competed to reach the North Pole, earning free downloads of MP3 songs from the album.

Thomas has been named the Johns Hopkins University's first Homewood Professor of the Arts. This position will enable him to help create a new center that will serve as an incubator for technology in the arts. In addition to playing a leading role in designing the new center, Dolby will co-teach a course at Hopkins, Sound on Film, that will bring together film students from the Homewood campus with composing students at Peabody, and that will make use of computer techniques he pioneered.

Thomas completed his first film, The Invisible Lighthouse, in 2013. It documents the imminent closure of a historic lighthouse overlooking a mysterious ex-military island near his coastal home in East Anglia, UK. To support the film, Thomas undertook a promotional tour of film festivals and independent cinemas, projecting the film on a big screen while performing the score, narration, and sound effects live on stage. The tour covered 66 cities in the US and UK.

“… He puts on a treat of a concert…” —Gregory Weinkauf, The Huffington Post