back to article A tribute to Jim Gray

As we post this, Jim Gray has been missing for three months. It now seems very unlikely that he is still alive, although his family has not given up hope. We decided to publish the following tribute to him, because his life deserves to be celebrated. James 'Jim' Nicholas Gray (born 1944) Photo of Jim Gray. of Microsoft …


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  1. marc

    As someone who uses SQL

    I knew I owed this man a debt. I did not, however, know it was him I had to thank that SQL was "fixed" in the way it was. :(

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Many of us have a lot to thank Jim for. A lot more probably will never realise they do... which is probably the way he'd like it. A great man, sorely missed.

  3. Jan Buys

    Wonderful man then

    I did not really know the man, but if he really made SQL consistent over the major companies, he surely deserves his medal. In the same sense I am now waiting for a public execution of an MS guy for raping every standard in the tech world. From Java to HTML.


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People like Jim are a true gift to IT, community & humanity

    I've heard of Jim but never had the opportunity to work directly or even indirectly with him, but what work of his I did learn of was legendary. But that's neither here nor there right now. What is with the utmost sincerity and humility that I extend my hopes and prayers to Mr. Gray's family and inner circle. And if he has made the journey to the other side, God speed and good tailwinds.

    BW Saloum

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A fitting tribute

    Thank you Mark. While I never knew Mr Gray in any capacity and didn't realise his contributions to the world and in particular the IT field of work, your lovely words touched me. I wish there was something I could do to bring him back for all our sakes.

  6. Justin Clift

    Scholar and a Gentleman

    Many years ago when assisting the PostgreSQL (and OSDB) open source projects, I emailed Jim Gray asking how we could quickly generate large (at the time i.e. 5-50GB I think) sets of good quality TPC compliant test data.

    Specifically so we could benchmark and compare various things reliably. (i.e. different configurations, database A vs database B vs database C, etc).

    Wasn't aware at the time of how influential Jim was. Heh. Without hesitation he offered practical advise and assistance, including code thoughts, and dug up other contacts for us as well.

    Truly a good guy. If he's really gone forever, then I hope his examples of humanity lift others to do the same as opportunities present.

  7. Boyd Waters

    Exactly Right.

    I spent a whole day with Jim when he came to visit our astronomical observatory. My boss - the director of the computing division - was the nomial host, but he had to leave in the middle of the day, and asked me (a rather junior programmer, or a senior systems analyst, depending upon circumstances) to make sure Jim was OK. Jim spent the rest of the day talking to everyone, going to dinner with them, etc. Jim was wonderfully approachable and thoughtful. To everyone he met.

    I tried to help find him. The fact that he went missing makes me want to punch something. But at the same time, I don't see how anyone could have lived a better life.

  8. Mogens Nørgaard

    Jim, RAID-5 and BAARF...

    I vaguely knew about Jim, but then I got the chance to meet him together with about 10 other folks, including my good friend James Morle, in a small arts gallery in London a year or two ago. He talked a bit about what he was up to, and then asked us to provide the questions and debating topics, and it was all very good and fun.

    Then suddenly he said:

    "Something else I've noticed recently on my trips around the world - there are SO many problems with RAID-5 disk systems. I don't understand why people are using them when everyone knows they're bad?!"

    James & me: "Well, three years ago we founded the BAARF Party because ... bla bla bla ...."

    Jim: "Where do I sign up?"

    James & me: "We'll send you the details."

    Then the meeting continued, and a few hours later it ended because he had to leave for his next meeting. On the way out of the room he looked at James and me and said: "Don't forget to send me those details!"

    And a day or two later he signed up!

    So on you'll find him (no, this is not meant as a commercial, there's no money involved here :-))) ), and I thought recently about telling this story on the website, but then James pointed me to this excellent tribute to him.

    I heard about the effort of all those people through Mark Souza, a director in Microsoft, recently. People with private planes even flew out to look, he told me.

    That's the best possible way this bad situation could end, I think: With lots of good guys from competing companies banding together to help a true titan.

    Commit Transaction ;

    Mogens Nørgaard, Denmark

  9. Gordon Grant

    The world is a poorer place....

    The IT world has lost so much from this one man, I mean they don't just give the Turing Award to just anyone, I mean it's a much more selective award than the Nobel Prize. His contributions to SQL and all other projects he's dealt with will be felt for years to come. I doubt even Bill Gates could get away with the kind of comments Jim got away with.

    The fact that so many individuals and companies got involved trying to find him proves he is a true legend, in 10 years time he too may have a GPS tracked wooden statue like the HP founders have.

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