LINGUIST List 13.2047

Thu Aug 8 2002

All: Obituary: William A. Gale

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  • Richard Sproat, Obituary: William A. Gale

    Message 1: Obituary: William A. Gale

    Date: Thu, 8 Aug 2002 09:40:23 -0400
    From: Richard Sproat <>
    Subject: Obituary: William A. Gale

    We are sad to report that William A. Gale, statistician and computational linguist, passed away at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey on August 6, 2002. He was 63. Bill grew up in Houston, Corpus Christi and Fort Worth, Texas, and earned his Bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Rice University. He started work at AT&T Bell Labs doing radio astronomy for the Venus probes. In 1980 Bill moved to the statistics department at Bell Labs, where he collaborated with economists, and started to work more and more on issues related to computer science. With Daryl Pregibon he built the first demonstration of the feasibility of applying ideas from expert systems in statistics. In the late 1980's Bill's interests turned to computational linguistics, and the statistics of language. He worked initially with Ken Church on problems of term-frequency distributions, but was soon collaborating with many natural language researchers at Bell Labs and beyond. Bill was enthusiastic about every problem he tackled, and his enthusiasm and his skill in applying mathematical models to novel domains will be sorely missed. We will also miss his patience in helping non-mathematicians understand how to apply statistical models to linguistic problems. Finally, and perhaps more than anything, we will miss his gentility. As anyone who has worked with Bill will know, it was always a pleasure to talk to him, whether about technical matters, or about the wider realms of life. Ken Church Chilin Shih Richard Sproat