By MortazaviBlog on Aug 08, 2009
I was reading about the Amistad case on Wikipedia, and noticed the interesting role that Josiah Willard Gibbs Sr., the theologian, had played in finding a Mende speaker. (Gibbs learned how to say numerals one to ten in Mende, shouted it in the New York Harbor, and found someone who understood the numbers.) Gibbs name, of course, made me curious about this relationship to the other Josiah Willard Gibbs, the mathematician and physical chemist, whose theories we constantly apply in chemical thermodynamics. (Josiah Willard Gibbs, Jr. also happens to have been awarded the very first U.S. Ph.D. in engineering, under a dissertation entitled: On the Form of the Teeth of Wheels in Spur Gearing.)
Starting from a series of exchanges conducted mostly by e-mail and often across multiple time zones as I was traveling in Germany and Russia in the last couple of months, Janice Heiss cajoled me (and I should thank her for it) into this interview.
I hope you'll learn a few things reading it. I certainly learned quite a bit as I was exchanging these ideas with Janice and as I was trying to reply to some of her questions. For example, although I had always been curious about it, I hadn't earlier thought much about how I may respond to Bill Joy's famous essay until Janice actually asked me about it during the course of the interview. (Thank you very much Janice!)
I should probably add that Janice is a Sun staff writer as well as a blogger on Java.Net. She is also the person behind a wonderful series of other interviews with Sun's developers and software engineers—lots of amazing work and ideas are summarized in these interviews: "Meet the Engineer". Finally, I also recommend a reading of her tips for students coming from some of these top developers. There, you are bound to fin (as I did) many nuggests of wisdom.