Paul Saylor, 1939-2020

My friend Paul Saylor passed away on November 7th.


University of Illinois

Paul retired after 34 years as a professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He was 81 years old. He was born in May 1939, just three months before me.

My friend Gene Golub was an alumnus of the University of Illinois and a longtime friend of Paul and his wife Cynthia. Gene endowed a professorship at his alma mater, the Paul and Cynthia Saylor Professorship.


Another friend, Bill Gropp, was the first recipient of the Saylor professorship at Illinois. Bill was in the 1979 numerical analysis class at Stanford where I introduced "Classic" MATLAB to grad students in engineering and ultimately to Jack Little. After Stanford, Bill was on the faculty at Yale for several years and was involved in YSMP, the Yale Sparse Matrix Package, many years before we had sparse matrices in MATLAB. Then he went to Argonne National Laboratory and, among other things, to the development of MPI, Message Passing Interface, which today dominates the world of distributed memory supercomputers. Now he has another endowed professorship at Illinois and is President-elect of the IEEE Computer Society.

Numerical relativity

Kip Thorne is the only one of my friends who has won a Nobel Prize. In 2017, he was cited for "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves." Numerical solution, on supercomputers, of the Einstein field equations of general relativity played a central role in the LIGO detection. Paul Saylor was principal investigator on a project at NCSA that was among the first to simulate gravitational waves.

Published with MATLAB® R2020b

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