Friday, September 14, 2012

Announcing the 2012 Distinguished Service Award - John Hunter

The Distinguished Service Award

The Python Software Foundation voted unanimously on September 12, 2012 to authorize the creation of a new award: the Distinguished Service Award. The award is offered in recognition of long-term excellence in the Python community, and is intended to stand as the Foundation's highest honor. Whether for contributions of code, activism, evangelism, or for other services to Python and its global community, the Foundation seeks to honor those who have a record of sustained and prolific giving to the Python world.

The award will not be made to a schedule, but as deserving candidates emerge. It comes with a check for $5,000, in simple recognition of the kind of devoted service for which the award will be presented.

Full details of the award, and a list of recipients, can be found on the Foundation's awards page.

The First Recipient

The inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Service Award is John Hunter, who passed away on August 28, 2012 after losing an all-too-brief battle with colon cancer.

He is survived by his wife Miriam and three daughters Clara, Ava, and Rahel. To mark his passing, the NumFOCUS Foundation has setup a memorial fund for the care and education of his three daughters at

John Hunter

There are few projects in the Python world which have enjoyed the reach, longevity, and value that matplotlib has offered in the 10 years since its creation. John Hunter, at the time a post-doctoral neurobiologist at the University of Chicago, started the matplotlib library as a way to work around downtime created by limited licensing for expensive proprietary tools. His choice to use Python was a bold one at the time, given Python's relatively young age, especially within the sciences. However, his efforts paid off and he was able to create an open alternative to allow him to continue analyzing epileptic seizure data in children without the limitations he was experiencing with other products.

Over time, John left the academic world and entered Chicago's finance industry, taking employment at TradeLink Securities. While there, he took his science background and matplotlib project into the field of quantitative analysis. In the ten years since matplotlib's creation, John brought three daughters into the world and cared for his family all while maintaining the number one spot on the matplotlib committer list. He became further involved in the numeric and scientific communities, presenting at conferences and expanding his involvement to the recently formed NumFOCUS Foundation, at which he was a founding board member.

John's creation and contribution of matplotlib to not just the Python community, but to the science and mathematics communities, is truly an effort that will live on and continue to influence these communities and more for many years to come. Whether you found Python through matplotlib or matplotlib through Python, John Hunter's efforts have left a lasting mark on so many people in so many places.

In addition to the Distinguished Service Award, the Foundation will be contributing $3500 to a project which is currently in the works, the John Hunter Technical Fellowship. More details on this will follow.