September 20, 2007

A Great Computer Scientist - Randy Pausch

You may not know Randy Pausch, but you should. He is truly a great computer scientist - but unfortunately, one who is dying. He was scheduled to give a CS Distinguished Seminar at UMD last year, but had to cancel on account of his illness.

On Tuesday, he gave his "last lecture" at CMU which Allison & I attended. Given that he is brilliant, a wonderful showman, and forthright - and expecting to die before long with advanced pancreatic cancer, it was a talk that is hard to describe the gravitas of - whether you know Randy or not.

While the audience (an overflowing room of 500 or so), was obviously distraught - Randy focused on the lessons of his life. What he was proud of, what was difficult - focusing on what it took to achieve his childhood dreams. And he talked a lot about the satisfaction he has taken in focusing on undergraduate education and broadening the students interested in computer science (through Alice, his very popular 3D system that offers an introduction to programming) among other things.

You may not have the pleasure of getting to know Randy in person, but I promise that you will not be disappointed if you spend the 1.5 hours to watch his talk. Here is a wall street journal article about it.. The weird thing is that the hyperbole in this article is actually understated. The talk was far beyond anything I've heard before.

The full video of his talk is here:

Randy's personal page and treatment blog is here: