Jim Gray : lost but not forgotten

May 1, 2007

Three months ago Jim Gray, database expert, Turing prizewinner, and friend of the Virtual Observatory, disappeared in his yacht off California. The IT world, and some of his astronomy friends, such as Alex Szalay, mounted the most amazing high-tech search, but he has not turned up, so people are assuming the worst. A tribute to Jim has just appeared on The Register. Amongst other things, this article makes the point that people went to such lengths not just because he was clever and important, but because people liked him so much. I only met him a few times, but this is spot on. He was a really really nice guy. And with a quiet but sharp sense of humour. At one very early VO meeting, when people had been burbling on about bandwidth issues for hours, he started his talk by speaking to Alex Szalay, saying “Oh, Alex, I have been meaning to give you these data”. He walked around the bench and handed Alex a hard disk. As he walked back, he said “There you go. Hundred Gigabits per second. Sneakernet.”