[Numpy-discussion] A sad day for our community. John Hunter: 1968-2012.

Sturla Molden sturla at molden.no
Thu Aug 30 11:58:59 EDT 2012

This is sad news for neuroscience and everyone doing data visualization 
in Python. Dr. Hunter was not only a well renowned neuroscientist, he 
also created what I hold to be among the best 2D data visualization 
tools available. My next neuroscience paper that uses Matplotlib will 
mention Dr. Hunter in the Acknowledgement. I encourage everyone else who 
are using Matplotlib for their research to do the same.

Sturla Molden

On 30.08.2012 04:57, Fernando Perez wrote:
> Dear friends and colleagues,
> [please excuse a possible double-post of this message, in-flight
> internet glitches]
> I am terribly saddened to report that yesterday, August 28 2012 at
> 10am,  John D. Hunter died from complications arising from cancer
> treatment at the University of Chicago hospital, after a brief but
> intense battle with this terrible illness.  John is survived by his
> wife Miriam, his three daughters Rahel, Ava and Clara, his sisters
> Layne and Mary, and his mother Sarah.
> Note: If you decide not to read any further (I know this is a long
> message), please go to this page for some important information about
> how you can thank John for everything he gave in a decade of generous
> contributions to the Python and scientific communities:
> http://numfocus.org/johnhunter.
> Just a few weeks ago, John delivered his keynote address at the SciPy
> 2012 conference in Austin centered around the evolution of matplotlib:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3lTby5RI54
> but tragically, shortly after his return home he was diagnosed with
> advanced colon cancer.  This diagnosis was a terrible discovery to us
> all, but John took it with his usual combination of calm and resolve,
> and initiated treatment procedures.  Unfortunately, the first round of
> chemotherapy treatments led to severe complications that sent him to
> the intensive care unit, and despite the best efforts of the
> University of Chicago medical center staff, he never fully recovered
> from these.  Yesterday morning, he died peacefully at the hospital
> with his loved ones at his bedside.  John fought with grace and
> courage, enduring every necessary procedure with a smile on his face
> and a kind word for all of his caretakers and becoming a loved patient
> of the many teams that ended up involved with his case.  This was no
> surprise for those of us who knew him, but he clearly left a deep and
> lasting mark even amongst staff hardened by the rigors of oncology
> floors and intensive care units.
> I don't need to explain to this community the impact of John's work,
> but allow me to briefly recap, in case this is read by some who don't
> know the whole story.  In 2002, John was a postdoc at the University
> of Chicago hospital working on the analysis of epilepsy seizure data
> in children.  Frustrated with the state of the existing proprietary
> solutions for this class of problems, he started using Python for his
> work, back when the scientific Python ecosystem was much, much smaller
> than it is today and this could have been seen as a crazy risk.
> Furthermore, he found that there were many half-baked solutions for
> data visualization in Python at the time, but none that truly met his
> needs.  Undeterred, he went on to create matplotlib
> (http://matplotlib.org) and thus overcome one of the key obstacles for
> Python to become the best solution for open source scientific and
> technical computing.  Matplotlib is both an amazing technical
> achievement and a shining example of open source community building,
> as John not only created its backbone but also fostered the
> development of a very strong development team, ensuring that the
> talent of many others could also contribute to this project.  The
> value and importance of this are now painfully clear: despite having
> lost John, matplotlib continues to thrive thanks to the leadership of
> Michael Droetboom, the support of Perry Greenfield at the Hubble
> Telescope Science Institute, and the daily work of the rest of the
> team.  I want to thank Perry and Michael for putting their resources
> and talent once more behind matplotlib, securing the future of the
> project.
> It is difficult to overstate the value and importance of matplotlib,
> and therefore of John's contributions (which do not end in matplotlib,
> by the way; but a biography will have to wait for another day...).
> Python has become a major force in the technical and scientific
> computing world, leading the open source offers and challenging
> expensive proprietary platforms with large teams and millions of
> dollars of resources behind them. But this would be impossible without
> a solid data visualization tool that would allow both ad-hoc data
> exploration and the production of complex, fine-tuned figures for
> papers, reports or websites. John had the vision to make matplotlib
> easy to use, but powerful and flexible enough to work in graphical
> user interfaces and as a server-side library, enabling a myriad use
> cases beyond his personal needs.  This means that now, matplotlib
> powers everything from plots in dissertations and journal articles to
> custom data analysis projects and websites.  And despite having left
> his academic career a few years ago for a job in industry, he remained
> engaged enough that as of today, he is still the top committer to
> matplotlib; this is the git shortlog of those with more than 1000
> commits to the project:
>    2145  John Hunter<jdh2358 at gmail.com>
>    2130  Michael Droettboom<mdboom at gmail.com>
>    1060  Eric Firing<efiring at hawaii.edu>
> All of this was done by a man who had three children to raise and who
> still always found the time to help those on the mailing lists, solve
> difficult technical problems in matplotlib, teach courses and seminars
> about scientific Python, and more recently help create the NumFOCUS
> foundation project.  Despite the challenges that raising three
> children in an expensive city like Chicago presented, he never once
> wavered from his commitment to open source.  But unfortunately now he
> is not here anymore to continue providing for their well-being, and I
> hope that all those who have so far benefited from his generosity,
> will thank this wonderful man who always gave far more than he
> received.  Thanks to the rapid action of Travis Oliphant, the NumFOCUS
> foundation is now acting as an escrow agent to accept donations that
> will go into a fund to support the education and care of his wonderful
> girls Rahel, Ava and Clara.
> If you have benefited from John's many contributions, please say
> thanks in the way that would matter most to him, by helping Miriam
> continue the task of caring for and educating Rahel, Ava and Clara.
> You will find all the information necessary to make a donation here:
> http://numfocus.org/johnhunter
> Remember that even a small donation helps! If all those who ever use
> matplotlib give just a little bit, in the long run I am sure that we
> can make a difference.
> If you are a company that benefits in a serious way from matplotlib,
> remember that John was a staunch advocate of keeping all scientific
> Python projects under the BSD license so that commercial users could
> benefit from them without worry.  Please say thanks to John in a way
> commensurate with your resources (and check how much a yearly matlab
> license would cost you in case you have any doubts about the value you
> are getting...).
> John's family is planning a private burial in Tennessee, but (most
> likely in September) there will also be a memorial service in Chicago
> that friends and members of the community can attend.  We don't have
> the final scheduling details at this point, but I will post them once
> we know.
> I would like to again express my gratitude to Travis Oliphant for
> moving quickly with the setup of the donation support, and to Eric
> Jones (the founder of Enthought and another one of the central figures
> in our community)  who immediately upon learning of John's plight
> contributed resources to support the family with everyday logistics
> while John was facing treatment as well as my travel to Chicago to
> assist.  This kind of immediate urge to come to the help of others
> that Eric and Travis displayed is a hallmark of our community.
> Before closing, I want to take a moment to publicly thank the
> incredible staff of the University of Chicago medical center.  The
> last two weeks were an intense and brutal ordeal for John and his
> loved ones, but the hospital staff offered a sometimes hard to
> believe, unending supply of generosity, care and humanity in addition
> to their technical competence.  The latter is something we expect from
> a first-rate hospital at a top university, where the attending
> physicians can be world-renowned specialists in their field.  But the
> former is often forgotten in a world often ruled by a combination of
> science and concerns about regulations and liability. Instead, we
> found generous and tireless staff who did everything in their power to
> ease the pain, always putting our well being ahead of any mindless
> adherence to protocol, patiently tending to every need we had and
> working far beyond their stated responsibilities to support us.  To
> name only one person (and many others are equally deserving), I want
> to thank Dr. Carla Moreira, chief surgical resident, who spent the
> last few hours of John's life with us despite having just completed a
> solid night shift of surgical work.  Instead of resting she came to
> the ICU and worked to ensure that those last hours were as comfortable
> as possible for John; her generous actions helped us through a very
> difficult moment.
> It is now time to close this already too long message...
> John, thanks for everything you gave all of us, and for the privilege
> of knowing you.
> Fernando.
> ps - I have sent this with my 'mailing lists' email.  If you need to
> contact me directly for anything regarding the above, please write to
> my regular address at Fernando.Perez at berkeley.edu, where I do my best
> to reply more promptly.
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