David Owen Williams (1944 - 2006)

Many people, not only at CERN but also throughout the world, were saddened to learn that their friend and colleague David Williams had passed away in the early hours of Tuesday 24 October. His death came after a year of fighting cancer with all of his usual determination and optimism. Even days before the end he was still welcoming to visitors, and was alert and interested in all their news.

Born in 1944, David came to CERN from the University of Cambridge in 1966, with a degree in Physics and Computer Science. Joining what at the time was called the Documents and Data (DD) Division, in the earlier part his career he worked first on software for analysis of bubble chamber photographs, subsequently leading the group that supported experiments with 'hybrids' of bubble chambers and electronic detectors and then the group supporting online computing in experiments. He thus witnessed all of the enormous changes that took place in particle physics as the era of bubble chambers came to an end and the availability of powerful, compact mini-computers revolutionised the collection of data. Armed with this experience, he moved on to become Deputy Leader of DD in 1985 and then Division Leader of the re-named Computing and Networks (CN) Division from 1989 to 1996. This was the period of transition from central mainframes and super-computers to a completely distributed computing environment for the acquisition, processing, management and analysis of the 100's of Terabytes of data produced by the experiments at CERN and to a reasonably coherent desktop environment for the more than 10,000 staff and researchers around the world who use CERN's computing facilities. It was also the period during which the World Wide Web was created in the Division by Tim Berners-Lee and collaborators. David was very active in fostering the development of the Internet in Europe, not just as a tool for scientific research but also as a motor for Europe's overall economic development. This naturally led to him holding a number of positions at European and national level (President of TERENA from 1999 to 2003, a member of various UK committees dealing with eScience and Chairman of the eScience Advisory Board of the UK's CCLRC). With this broad view, coupled with his energy and managerial talents, it was thus natural that he moved on at CERN to be responsible for the overall coordination of CERN's relations with the European Union, a post that he held until the end.

For those who knew him, David was always a very private person, unwilling to talk about himself or worry others with his problems. One source of enormous personal satisfaction to him, however, was the exceedingly well-merited award in 2005 of an Honorary Professorship at Edinburgh University. Many people will remember him as being generous and supportive, always ready to spring to the defence of someone he considered to be wrongly criticised. He also had the habit, when attending scientific talks, to ask the questions that others were afraid to ask. Although David had usually understood perfectly, this gave the speaker the opportunity to clarify points that had previously been explained somewhat obscurely.

Much sympathy goes out in this difficult time to David's wife Lidy and to his two children, Mark and Marietta, and their families.

Colleagues and friends