[Python-Dev] Frank Willison

Paul Prescod paulp@ActiveState.com
Tue, 31 Jul 2001 05:39:53 -0700

The Python world has lost a great friend in Frank Willison. Frank died
yesterday of a massive heart attack.

I've searched in vain for a biography of Frank for those that didn't
know him but perhaps he was too modest to put his biography on the Web.
Suffice to say that before there were 30 or 10 or 5 Python books, before
acquisitions editors started cold-calling Python programmers, Frank had
a sense that this little language could become something.

In Frank's words:

"This is my third Python Conference. At the first one, a loyal 70 or so
Python loyalists debated potential new features of the language. At the
second, 120 or so Python programmers split their time between a review
of language features and the discussion of interesting Python

At this conference, the third, we moved onto a completely different
level. Presentations and demonstrations at this conference of nearly 250
attendees have covered applications built on Python. Companies are
demonstrating their Python-based products. There is venture capital
here. There are people here because they want to learn about Python.
This year, mark my words: Python is here to stay."


The O'Reilly books that Frank edited helped to give Python the
legitimacy it needed to get over the hump. I carefully put in the word
"helped" because Frank requires honesty and modesty:

"O'Reilly doesn't legitimize. If we did, lots of technology creators who
enjoy their status as bastards would shun us. We try to find the
technologies that are interesting and powerful, that solve the problems
people really have. Then we take pleasure in publishing an interesting
book on that subject. 

I'd like to put another issue to rest: the Camel book did not legitimize
Perl. It may have accelerated Perl's adoption by making information
about Perl more readily available. But the truth is that Perl would have
succeeded without an O'Reilly book (as would Python and Zope), and that
we're very pleased to have been smart enough to recognize Perl's
potential before other publishers did."


Frank was also a Perl guy. He was big enough for both worlds. To me he
was a Perl guy but *the* Python guy. Frank was the guy who got Python
books into print. He and his protege Laura Llewin were constantly on the
lookout for opportunities to write about Python.

Much more important than anything he did with or for Python: Frank was a
really great guy with an excellent sense of humor and a way of
connecting with people. I know all of that after only meeting him two or
three times because it was just so obvious what kind of person he was
that it didn't take you any time to figure it out.

You can find more of Frank's writings here:


 Paul Prescod