It’s with sadness that I bring the news that Warren L. DeLano passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, on Tuesday November 3rd. For some of you, Warren’s name will be instantly recognized. For many more, you know him indirectly as the developer of PyMOL. PyMOL, the open source software he began developing as a graduate student, would eventually become his life’s work and has become one of the key tools used by structural biologists the world over.
In time, PyMOL would be used by a wide variety of scientists, that would embody one of the most unique cross-sections of scientific endeavor. Noted for it’s ease of use for the novice, yet possessing a rich set of features and powerful scripting options for advanced user, PyMOL quickly became the de facto standard for the generation of publication quality images and as a tool for molecular analysis and visualization.
As a contributing developer of a third-party plugin to PyMOL I had the opportunity to interact with Warren quite often. It wasn’t until 2006 that we were finally able to meet in person. Our first face to face conversation took place at no other than the scientific poster session at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Instead of standing by our posters we talked the entire session. At the time, Warren was focusing on building his business. We talked quite a bit about the trials of finding the right business model and developing new functionality that would enhance the usefulness of PyMOL.
After the session concluded, Warren joined myself and the other MacResearch members for drinks at a watering hole across the street from our hotel where the conversation covered a variety of topics and personal interests. For the next few years I would always bump into Warren at WWDC. You could always tell it was Warren from a distance, because he had always had a huge smile on his face, and a spring in step.
Warren was a passionate and heavy advocate for the principles of open source software. He helped build a large community of PyMOL using scientists, many of whom would contribute utilities to help enhance the feature set of the application. Always helpful, Warren became known for his willingness to answer questions, listen to user feedback and provide assistance on the PyMOL mailing list.
It’s unfortunate and untimely events such as his passing, that serve as reminder of the importance to not allow the petty and insignificant annoyances in life consume us. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Yet, we can only hope that in our lifetimes, we will contribute as much to the forward progression of science as Warren has. Warren built a legacy that continues to grow with each use of his software and every discovery it helps contribute to. Although he is no longer with us, Warren will always be remembered.