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January 30, 2007 1:34 PM

Microsoft superstar missing at sea

Posted by Brier Dudley

Terrible to hear that Jim Gray is missing after going on a solo sailing excursion Sunday out of San Francisco.

It's especially poignant because he was sailing out to spread his mother's ashes by the Farallon Islands, a 27-mile trip on a lovely, sunny day.

The Coast Guard is conducting a major search with boats, planes and helicopters.

Gray is one of the most distinguished employees of Microsoft's advanced research group, where his recent focus has been using computers to analyze scientific data.

His expertise is databases and transaction processing. Research in the latter field earned him the A.M. Turing Award in 1999. Here's what Microsoft said in the press release announcing the award:

A senior researcher and manager of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center, Gray's work over the past three decades has made it possible for computers to store and analyze ever larger amounts of information. As a result of his research, databases have evolved from 10 megabyte-sized storage facilities, which were the sole property of large corporations and government institutions, into terabyte-sized computers available to millions of people. His work paved the way for many of the daily transactions we now take for granted, such as withdrawing money from automatic teller machines (ATMs), making airline reservations and purchasing products over the Internet.

UPDATE: A fan of Gray's in Oakland has posted a good collection of links here.

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