Sam Roweis died unexpectedly on January 12, 2010.

He was a truly wonderful person; a beloved son, husband and father; and a treasured friend and colleague.

This is a place for all of us who were lucky enough to know Sam to share our memories and to help celebrate his life.
If you would like to add an article to this blog please contact Or you may leave a comment on any article. (Comments are moderated: please bear in mind that this is a place to remember Sam and to help celebrate his life.)

There is also an album of photographs for which contributions are welcome. Instructions on how to contribute appear next to album.

Friday, 15 January 2010

from Max Welling

Dear Sam,

I find myself rechecking whether it is not all a dream after all. Your passing comes as an incredible shock. I will miss you: your person, your talks and your papers.

On 9/23/09 we had a brief email exchange where I asked about your current situation. Among other things you wrote back:

"Hopefully in a few years things will be more stable and we can try to put our lives back together. But I hope all is well with you and please let me know if you are planning a trip to NYC."

Of course I now wish I made that trip. I wish, like everyone who knows you, I could have helped you. I wish the laws of physics were time reversible.

You will leave very big footprints. I first met you at Caltech, then we shared a year of postdoc-ing at the Gatsby unit and finally two more years in Toronto where you had become assistant professor while I was still postoc-ing. I will confess, I envied you. Five years younger and so much more successful. Everyone knew you. You were (and still are) a role model of how to do research and communicate it to others. I remember this huge crowd of people around your poster on "Constrained Hidden Markov Models" at NIPS listening to your intoxicating explanations in your booming voice. I wished I could draw crowds like that.

During the Gatsby years you created a magical atmosphere that made me feel I was part of something really profound. I remember Geoff Hinton introducing your talk on LLE with: "if you don't like this there is nothing that you will like". I always walked away from your talks slightly hyperventilating, high on oxygen, re-energized to do my own research.

Your paper "EM Algorithms for PCA and Sensible PCA" had a very big impact on my career because it filled me with enthusiasm for the field. It was one of those nipsy papers with a really cute idea that unified two concepts (EM and PCA). I always wanted to ask you "why did you name it sensible PCA"? How I wish you were still around to give an answer.

Goodbye Sam. It was a great privilege and joy to know you. We will have to struggle to keep your spirit alive in our community. I will continue to be inspired to give talks "Sam's way": light, magical, humorous, energetic, interesting, inspired. I will continue to read your papers and give them to my students so they too can get touched by that spark.

I hope your children will read these stories when they grow up and know what a fantastic father they had. For Meredith, whose distress I can not fathom, I wish all the strength in the world to get through this horrible situation.


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