When in 2009 i attended the International Lisp Conference, Dan Weinreb had been part of my personal pantheon for some time. There, i had, for the first and only time, the opportunity to see and listen to him in the flesh, and to confirm, once again, that really brilliant people are always approachable and kind; you can reach them without having to jump over a cohort of cheerleaders, they know much better than that. Despite that, i didn’t say anything to him, nor even introduced myself; i was happy enough just listening.
Back home i wrote a blog post about ILC and Gerry Sussman, and, out of the blue, Dan chimed in, made some comments, and we exchanged some emails. He talked in them about the old days at MIT with David Moon and Gerry Sussman, of how later he had attended the SICM courses, about generics in Lisp and how hard they were to get right… just as you would to an old friend. Those days were brighter than average. A few months later, he was asking about some friends in Boston i was working with, and when ITA was bought i couldn’t resist writing again and, as always, he found the time to write back and share.
I didn’t know about Dan’s illness, and today’s news feel all but unreal and sad. I can’t find the right words. So let me just say farewell, Dan. There’s less kindness left in the world today.