Template:Infobox scientist

James Nicholas "Jim" Gray (born 12 January 1944, lost at sea 28 January 2007) was an American computer scientist who received the Turing Award in 1998 "for seminal contributions to database and transaction processing research and technical leadership in system implementation."

Family and education

Gray was born in San Francisco, California, the second child of a mother who was a teacher and a father in the U.S. Army; the family moved to Rome where Gray spent most of the first three years of his life, learning to speak Italian before English.[1] The family then moved to Virginia, spending about four years there, until Gray's parents divorced, after which he returned to San Francisco with his mother.[1] His father, an amateur inventor, patented a design for a ribbon cartridge for typewriters that earned him a substantial royalty stream.[1]

After being turned down for the Air Force Academy he entered the University of California, Berkeley as a freshman in 1961, paying $67 per semester.[1] To help pay for college he worked as a co-op for General Dynamics, where he learned to use a Monroe calculator; discouraged by his chemistry grades, he left Berkeley for six months, returning after an experience in industry he later described as "dreadful."[1] Gray earned his B.S. in Engineering Mathematics (Math and Statistics) in 1966.[citation needed]

After getting married, Gray moved with his wife Loretta to New Jersey, his wife's home state; she got a job as a teacher and he got one at Bell Labs working on a digital simulation that was to be part of Multics; he worked three days a week and spent two days as a Master's student at Courant Institute. —the couple planned to work for a year, making "enough money so that we could take off five years and go travel around the world."[1] Before commencing their travel plans, they returned to Berkeley for three months. After about two months travelling, they returned again to Berkeley, their interest in travelling satisfied.[1] Returning to Berkeley, Gray entered graduate school, with Michael Harrison as his advisor; he got his Ph.D. in 1969, in programming languages, which was followed by two years of post-doctoral work for IBM.[1] While at Berkeley he and Loretta had a daughter Heather; the couple later divorced.[1] He is survived by his wife, Donna Carnes, his daughter from a prior marriage, Heather Gray, three grandchildren, and his sister Gail.


Gray pursued his career primarily working as a researcher and software designer at a number of industrial companies, including IBM, Tandem Computers, and DEC. He joined Microsoft in 1995 and was a Technical Fellow for the company when he was lost at sea.[2]

Gray contributed to several major database and transaction processing systems, including the System R while at IBM, TerraServer-USA and Skyserver for Microsoft. Among his best known achievements are granular database locking, two-tier transaction commit semantics, the "five-minute rule" for allocating storage, and the data cube operator for data warehousing applications. He assisted in the development of Virtual Earth.[3][4][5][6] He was also one of the co-founders of the Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research.

Disappearance at sea and search

On Sunday, January 28, 2007, during a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands near San Francisco to scatter his mother's ashes, Gray and his 40-foot yacht, Tenacious, were reported missing by his wife, Donna Carnes. The Coast Guard searched for four days using a C-130 plane, helicopters, and patrol boats but found no sign of the vessel.[7][8][9][10]

Gray's boat was equipped with an automatically deployable EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon), which should have deployed and begun transmitting the instant his vessel sank. The area around the Farallon Islands where Gray was sailing is also well north of the East-West ship channel used by freighters entering and leaving San Francisco Bay. The weather was clear that day and no ships reported striking his boat, nor were any distress radio transmissions reported.

On February 1, 2007, the DigitalGlobe satellite did a scan of the area, generating thousands of images.[11] The images were posted to Amazon Mechanical Turk in order to distribute the work of searching through them, in hopes of spotting his boat.

On February 16, 2007, the family and Friends of Jim Gray Group suspended their search,[12] but continue to follow any important leads. The family ended its underwater search May 31, 2007. Despite much effort and utilisation of high-tech equipment above and below water, searches unfortunately did not reveal any new clues.[13][14][15][16][17]

The University of California, Berkeley and Gray's family hosted a tribute to him on May 31, 2008. The conference included sessions delivered by Richard Rashid and David Vaskevitch.[18] Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope software is dedicated to Gray. In 2008 Microsoft opened a research center in Madison, Wisconsin, named after Jim Gray.[19]


See also


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named oralhist
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named wisc
  3. An Interview with Jim Gray June 2003, Interviewed by David A. Patterson
  4. Interview with Jim Gray by Marianne Winslett, for ACM SIGMOD Record, March 2003 as part of Distinguished Database Profiles
  5. Interview on MSDN Channel 9, Behind the Code, March 3, 2006
  6. Interview by Mark Whitehorn for The Register 30 May 2006
  7. "Coast Guard searches for missing SF boater: 63-year-old man failed to return from trip to Farallon Islands". San Francisco Chronicle. January 29, 2007. 
  8. Doyle, Jim (January 30, 2007). "Sea search for missing Microsoft scientist: No sign of S.F. man who set out alone for Farallon Islands in 40-foot sailboat". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  9. Schevitz, Tanya; Rubenstein, Steve (January 31, 2007). "Search for missing sailor extends to Humboldt". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  10. May, Meredith; Doyle, Jim (January 31, 2007). "Vast search off coast for data wizard". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  11. Hafner, Katie (February 3, 2007). "Silicon Valley's High-Tech Hunt for Colleague". New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  12. "Friends of missing computer scientist suspend search for him". San Francisco Chronicle. February 16, 2007. 
  13. Inside the High-Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend, Wired Magazine (August 2007)
  14. Amazon Mechanical Turk volunteer project to help locate Jim Gray
  15. Blog for people trying to locate Jim Gray
  16. Help Find Jim Information to help locate Jim Gray
  17. Print a MISSING Poster Hang a MISSING Poster in Southern California and Mexico.
  18. Jim Gray Tribute website from the University of California, Berkeley
  19. Database Pioneer Joins Microsoft to Start New Database Research Lab, an April 2008 press release from Microsoft

External links

  1. REDIRECT Template:Turing Award laureates

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