John Polk Allen (born 6 May 1929, Carnegie, Oklahoma) is a systems ecologist and engineer, metallurgist, adventurer and writer. He is best known as the inventor and Director of Research of Biosphere 2, the world's largest laboratory of global ecology, and was the founder of Synergia Ranch. Allen is a proponent of the science of biospherics. Biosphere 2 set a number of world records in closed life system work including degree of sealing tightness, 100% waste recycle and water recycle, and duration of human residence within a closed system (eight people for two years). Allen has also conceived and co-founded nine other projects around the world, pioneering in sustainable co-evolutionary development.
Allen began the first manned Biosphere Test Module experiment in September 1988, residing in the almost fully recyclable closed ecological system environment for three days and setting a world record at that time, proving that closed ecological systems would work with humans inside. As the vice-president of Biospheric Development for the project, as well as Executive Chairman, Allen was responsible for the science and engineering that created the materially closed life system, as well as the development of spin-off technologies.
He is currently the Chairman of Global Ecotechnics Corporation (www.globalecotechnics.com). This is an international project development and management company with a Biospheric Design Division engaged in designing and preparing to build the second generation of advanced materially closed biospheric systems and ecologically enriched biomic systems (www.biospheres.com); and an EcoFrontiers Division which owns and operates innovative sustainable ecological projects of which he was the co-founder and chief designer in France, Australia (5000 acre savannah regeneration project), Puerto Rico (1000 acre sustainable rainforest project) and England (www.ecotechnics.edu).
Allen currently serves as Chairman of Global Ecotechnics, and a director of Biospheric Design and of Institute of Ecotechnics. He is Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Linnean Society, and the Explorers Club.
In the early 1960s, Allen worked on regional development projects with David Lillienthal's Development Resources Corporation in the U.S., Iran, and Côte d'Ivoire where he became an expert in complex regional development. In the mid-1960s Allen and a group of associates attempted a solder flux company that failed. Before that he headed a special metals team at Allegheny-Ludlium Steel Corporation which developed over thirty alloys to product status. He has led expeditions studying ecology, particularly the ecology of early civilizations: Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Turkey, India, and the Altiplano.
He studied anthropology and history at Northwestern, Stanford, and Oklahoma Universities, and served in the U.S. Army's Engineering Corps as a machinist. He graduated from Colorado School of Mines and received an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School. In the early 1960s, Allen headed a special metals team at Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Corporation which developed over thirty alloys to product status, then he worked with David Lillienthal's Development Resources Corporation in the U.S., Iran, and Côte d'Ivoire.
Under the pen name, Johnny Dolphin, Allen has chronicled his personal history alongside the social history of his many destinations in novels, poetry, short stories, and plays.