To the memory of two beautiful minds

On January 10, 2010, Sam Roweis, 37, an associate professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, jumped to his death from a 16th-floor balcony at his university-owned apartment.

Prior to teaching at NYU, Roweis was an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto.

His interests included data mining and machine learning. Roweis had won several awards and held a Canada Research Chair in Statistical Machine Learning. He was also a Scholar of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

A few days ago, on January 5, 2011, Bill Zeller, a Princeton Ph.D candidate and renowned internet programmer, died from self-inflicted injuries in an apparent suicide. He was 27.

Zeller stunned the scientific community by leaving behind a suicide note detailing a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, which he had never before disclosed to anyone.

The anguish coming out of this note is almost unbearable. Here is how it starts.

“I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision”.

And that’s how he ends it.

“Please save this letter and repost it. I don’t want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I’m worried that my family might try to restrict access to it. I don’t mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I’d prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.

Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.”

And I am posting it here to honor the last wish of a brilliant man who was never given a chance.

Bill.Zeller’s.note

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One Response to To the memory of two beautiful minds

  1. Pingback: The Death of Bill Zeller « Tyler's Blog

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