Talk:Dennis Ritchie

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A word about honor[edit]

This man, as those who ever studied computer science or operating systems knows, deserves our highest praise and honor, and certainly a longer and more detailed page about his ideas and contributions, not merely references. He was the genius who did not get enough praise. Let's not make another Tesla. Is anyone, out there, up for the job? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.103.164.62 (talk) 22:59, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

Different death dates[edit]

If I see it correctly the Page says, he died October 8. The Box on the right says, he died October 13. --88.75.232.155 (talk) 15:43, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

NYTimes article "Dennis Ritchie, Trailblazer in Digital Era, Dies at 70" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/technology/dennis-ritchie-programming-trailblazer-dies-at-70.html stated Ritchie "was found dead on Wednesday at his home in Berkeley Heights, N.J. He was 70." Should the date be Wed Oct 12th then? – Kempton "Ideas are the currency of the future." - a quote by Kevin Roberts 05:22, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
It should and now it does. I added the NYTimes cite but didn't catch the discrepancy with earlier reports. Thanks. Msnicki (talk) 06:16, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
Are the October 8 quotes from the BBC and The Guardian inaccurate? NYT states he was found dead on October 12, which I suppose does not necessarily mean he had died on that day. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 84.26.78.27 (talk) 08:23, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
Setting aside that The Guardian simply isn't the NY Times, especially in reporting events in the US, the Guardian doesn't cite a source, the NY Times does; The NY Times cites Ritchie's brother. It's possible the Guardian is reporting just whatever they found here on Wikipedia. The NY Times could be wrong or misleading, too, but for the moment, they're the most reliable source. From WP:V, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth." Msnicki (talk) 08:46, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
True, considering that it might be best not to state a specific date at all for the time being (NYT does not explicitly state the brother as source for the day of his death). Here in the discussion pages (well, not a good source at all of course), Peter Patel-Schneider is quoted mentioning 'the weekend' as time of death. That he has died in October seems to be quite certain. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 84.26.78.27 (talk) 09:12, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
NYTimes says he was "found dead on Wednesday" (October 12), but of course he could have been dead for days before he was found. Wired says he "passed away on October 8". Rob Pike's October 12 posting on Google+ says he died at home "this weekend" (consistent with October 8). The Guardian says "died 12 October 2011". PC Magazine says "died Wednesday" (October 12). There's definitely a conflict between sources which poses a verifiability problem. It seems likely that he died sometime between October 8 and October 12, and that the actual date of death is not yet certain, with some sources misinterpreting "found dead on Wednesday" as "died on Wednesday". It might be necessary for someone to get the official date from the death certificate when it is issued? (Should a tag be added to indicate that October 8 is a disputed date?) Deven (talk) 19:55, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

It was changed to Oct 8 by "Dennycolt99", who no longer exists. I have changed it back to Oct 12. I don't think five references are needed, but I've left them in.

I agree with leaving it as Oct 12 for now. We know for sure he was found dead on that day. Earlier dates, including Rob Pike's remark about "this weekend" appear to be speculation that he'd already been dead for a while. But Ritchie couldn't have been pronounced dead until after he was found dead and if there's an earlier reliable date, that would have to come from a medical examiner's autopsy, not lay speculation. Given this was natural causes, it seems unlikely they would do that. Msnicki (talk) 22:04, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
It may be that the date of Dennis's death will never be known for sure, at least publicly. I don't know what that should mean in terms of this article, though. Peter F. Patel-Schneider (talk) 23:25, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
One thing that's nice about Wikipedia is that you can go back to see if a rumor may have started here. Notice that the very first edit indicating Ritchie's death inserted a date of Oct 9. This was obvious speculation (and completely impermissible original research) because both the commment, "Dennis Ritchie, RIP (information sourced via Rob Pike" and the citation make it clear this edit was based solely on Pikes's post, which didn't give an exact date. (And never mind the problem of inserting this kind of information into a WP:BLP based on a blog post.) A few edits inserted Oct 12 but it went back and forth for a while.
The Oct 8 date first appeared based on the boingboing article, but that article doesn't give a date, either, so again, this was another editor's WP:OR. But once we let stuff like this get in here, even the press starts to believe it and report it as fact. We said it was, aren't we reliable? Well, usually. Msnicki (talk) 18:11, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

Only one source is provided for 12 october. This source does not provide evidence for that date. Since we are neutral and assume good faith, both days are correct. Because he has only died once, we cannot publish 2 dates. This means we cannot use a date at all. --Tjibbe I (talk) 15:06, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Nonsense. There's no question he was found on Oct 12. No one doubts the NYTimes on this point. And both the quote in the citation and the discussion on the section on his death make clear that's when he was found dead and that an exact time have not been disclosed. That's the date and (except for you) I think there's consensus. Msnicki (talk) 15:56, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
I am not questioning that he was found death on 12 october, I am questioning that he died on 12 October. The NYTimes does not say he died on that day, so there is no reason to doubt the NYTimes article. The BBC did not say he died on 12 October, neither did Rob Pike. The only reference that I doubt is the reference to the Guardian. There are a lot of websites that are just as trustworthy as the Guardian, that claim Mr. Ritchie died on 8 or 9 October. In fact, the only part that can be verified is that he died somewhere between 8 October and 12 October. I hope that we can agree that as long as 12 October is not verifiable more true than 8 October, we should either use both days or none of these days. Unless someone can explain why we the Guardian is more reliable than Rob Pike, Wired and NOS together, the date must be removed from the article. --Tjibbe I (talk) 19:13, 16 October 2011 (UTC) One word deleted 19:20, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
It seems very likely the Oct 8 date was spuriously generated by us, as someone's WP:OR, as I explained above. What we say here gets picked up very quickly by the press as fact. What we know is when he has found dead. Anything else is still conjecture (even from Rob Pike) until it's been confirmed. Notice how the BBC talks about confirming the information in Pike's blog post before they used it (which let us state verifiably that it was the first news of Ritchie's death.) But notice also that Pike's comment about him having died over the weekend is specifically NOT confirmed. As an unconfirmed statement in a blog post, we just can't use it; it's not a WP:RS. Msnicki (talk) 19:51, 16 October 2011 (UTC)
The same goes for 12 October as date of death. There are multiple equaly reliable sources that claim that he did not die on that day. There is aboslutely no reason to believe that Wired and NOS are less reliable than The Guardian. The article on the website of The Guardian was modified at 00.10 BST on Saturday 15 October 2011, that could be because of this Wikipedia article. I am not saying that we should use 8 October as date of death, but we cannot say that he died on 12 October without mentioning that there are equaly reliable sources that claim he died during the weekend (this is per WP:NPOV). --Tjibbe I (talk) 07:09, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Dont the US have some goverment agency that register date of death of persons? Like I dont know, since I live across the big pond, something like the Social Security Death Index or something. In Europe we dont have to rely on the newspaper when somebody died, we ask the government! 90.142.144.88 (talk) 04:21, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Death certificates are generally issued by the state counties in the US but they are not public records. To get a copy, you usually need to be a family member. Msnicki (talk) 05:03, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
FWIW, Death_certificates#United_States doesnt seem to agree on that stating: In the United States, death certificates are considered public domain documents and can therefore be obtained for any individual regardless of the requester's relationship to the deceased. Other jurisdictions take a different view, and restrict the issue of certificates. 90.142.144.88 (talk) 10:16, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
That information is wrong. It depends on the county but I think most states now require proof of a familial relationship except for historical records. In New Jersey where Ritchie died, unless you can prove your relationship, you can only get a certification, not an actual certified copy. Other states, e.g, New York and California have similar laws. Msnicki (talk) 15:03, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I know its beside the point of this page, but seriously, what a absolutly strange country the US is. Get a public Civil registry like normal counties have for pete's sake! Its not Orwellian, its about societys right to educate itself (as a bonus you dont have to do those stupid censuses (or at least not as detailed) and people dont have to register to get to vote). 90.142.144.88 (talk) 10:18, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

The consensus to use 12 October as date of death seems to be with three persons only. The consensus on the fact that there are sources that mention an other day as date of death (not date of found death, alltough there are sources that mention an other date for that too) seems to be broader than that, and at least one of the three persons mentioned earlier consents on that too.

Both the facts that Mr. Ritchie died during the weekend and the fact that he died 12 October are equaly verifiable. According to WP:NPOV this means that if we mention that Mr. Ritchie died on 12 October, we must also mention that he died over the weekend. I believe that the consensus on Wikipedia's core content policy Neutral point of view is much broader than just three people. I have decided to remove 12 October as date of death from the article. I do not think we will know the exact date of death until someone comes up with an obituary written by the family of the deceased, or with a death certificate.

Anyone who whishes to re-add 12 October as the only true date of death is requested to explain why before doing so. --Tjibbe I (talk) 14:21, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Tjibbe, you concede that three of us agree on Oct 12 but you don't. Lots of times that's all we get participating in a discussion. If you want to change it, you need to show that more people agree with you than with whatever's in the article now. You don't have that. A weekend date is not equally verifiable for all the reasons already explained. I have reverted your change. Get agreement first, don't just insist that the consensus is wrong or that you think you need to be even more outnumbered before it counts. Msnicki (talk) 15:13, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Funny thing (though on not funny topic) is that Ru.Wiki quotes Oct 8 date, relying to the article at crazyengineers.com, that in turn relies upon this En.Wiki article. Net Result is that serching for Dennis Ritchie on RuGoogle gives two topmost results those very pages from RuWiki and EnWiki, quoting different dates. Looks very weird. Does anyone has public fact, that he died on Oct.8 ? No. Does anyone has public fact, that he died on Oct.12 ? No. Any fixed date is Original Research. I believe, the article should literally state "found dead on October 13". Period. As about the form on the right, death date can be "October 2011" without exact day. I believe the is not the 1st person whos death or birth date is not known exactly. For some you can tell even minute and second, for others only month, for someone even not a year. That is life. 79.111.218.128 (talk) 18:49, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Okay, you make a good suggestion. I've added "Found dead" to the date in the infobox. The date is still Oct 12 based on the NY Times report that it was "Wednesday", which was the 12th. Does that work for everyone? Msnicki (talk) 19:38, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
If you add the same text to the first line of the article, it works for me. Thank you. --Tjibbe I (talk) 06:54, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
Okay, on your suggestion, I've inserted "found dead" into that sentence also, following the style of reporting in William Shakespeare. Msnicki (talk) 15:26, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

"Found dead" is not a polite phrasing appropriate to replace actual date of death. The custom is to use the date they were found as the date they died unless you have a death certificate saying otherwise. I am shocked that such a rude phrasing would be used on a page about a great man. 24.22.48.80 (talk) 11:43, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

That's a valid point. I too don't particularly like the "found dead" phrase, since it implies that he died alone and without his family, friends or anybody else around him. However, that's just how it happened according to the published information, and we can't change the facts. Realistically speaking it is also not a particularly rare event and it doesn't necessarily "mean anything" if there are only a few days between the actual natural death and the date when someone was found. But perhaps there are phrases expressing the same in even more neutral words? What about "announced dead on" leaving it just a slightly bit more open without stating anything wrong? --Matthiaspaul (talk) 18:10, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for adding the comment discouraging changes without discussion. That was a good idea. The reliable sources say "found dead" so I think that's what we need to stick with. Facts are neutral. Msnicki (talk) 18:22, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes, but words are not. ;-) If we can find a phrase less prone to interpretation I think we should use it instead of the current one at least in the intro and the personal info box. After all, other biographical articles don't discuss the circumstances of death in the intro as well. It is not normally important, and I'm sure we wouldn't do it here as well if we only knew the exact date so that we could state it in the usual way. We should not change the "found dead" phrase in the "Death and legacy" section further down, however, as this seems to be the proper location to discuss circumstances in better details (if known). --Matthiaspaul (talk) 19:50, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
If we can find a reliable source that offers a better, more acceptable (to consensus) description that's less open to interpretation, I'm all for it. But rewording to "find a phrase less prone to interpretation" sounds to me like imposing one. If the source was unclear what they meant, we shouldn't introduce our own WP:OR interpretation or synthesis to narrow it down. We definitely shouldn't do it when the reason is we just don't like some of those possible other interpretations.
To the extent it helps clarify my position, let me say that even if Ritchie did die alone, I don't attach the same sad meaning to it that Matthiaspaul does. Who plans when they're going to die? Of course this happens. I'm getting up there in age, so I know something about this. When my brother-in-law died in NYC, it was weeks before they found him in his apartment. Unless you're in a care facility, and especially if you're retired and living by yourself, there just plain is a good chance you will die alone (but probably quickly and with little warning else you'd have dialed 911) and that you may not be found for a while. There's also no Easter Bunny. Msnicki (talk) 20:15, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps you got me wrong a little. I'm not sad or such, I just found the article's rather strong emphasize on the circumstances of his death somewhat odd - at present it is mentioned in the introduction, in the person info box and in a separate section. You won't find this info in the lead of other biographical articles (just the plain dates) unless the death was part of why a person has become notable. Dennis Ritchie was clearly notable for a multitude of other things, and the circumstances of his death are close to trivia information. It should be mentioned, but not with this strong emphasize, I think. (Of course, we know, where this emphasize came from; it came as an unnoticed side-effect of finding a short phrase to indicate that the given date is not the exact date of death but just an approximation.)
For me, it was just a slightly odd feeling when reading the article, nothing harmful, nothing to worry about, but when I then read the IP's comment above, it became clear to me that other people have stumbled upon and found it somewhat inappropriate as well. I think even within the bounds of the currently available sources we can find a finer nuanced phrase without adding interpretations, without leaving neutral grounds, and, of course, without suppressing any facts. After all, we are not bound to verbatim copy from the sources but are entitled to extract the information relevant for us. For the intro and side box, the circumstances of death are not relevant, so we should find a phrase not mentioning or implying them. Further down in the section "Death and legacy", the circumstances are important (I wish we had better sources), so that's where the info should be added (that is, not be removed) and the phrase "found dead" is perfectly fine there in my humble opinion. My suggestion for the intro was "announced dead on", because that's what is typically used over here in Germany in similar cases, but I have no idea if this is also a phrase used in the English world. --Matthiaspaul (talk) 00:06, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps you have your answer. If Ritchie had been a German computer scientist living in Hamburg, perhaps his death would have been reported by Die Zeit as "announced dead" and that would be the language we'd use here. But Ritchie was an American, living in New Jersey, and his death was reported by The New York Times, published only 30 miles away, as "found dead." (Is it possible that all that's going on here is that this is just one more case where behavior that seems perfectly ordinary to Americans seems odd to others around the world?) Msnicki (talk) 17:35, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
 ;-) I'll leave that for others to decide... ;-) --Matthiaspaul (talk) 17:46, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Hello. I'm afraid I must agree with Matthiaspaul. The phrasing in the header strikes me as abrupt and undignified. My suggestion would be to put the confirmed date as a normal death date with a nb tag linking to the details in the sources, as on the Shakespeare page. Let's let the life stand out. c10191 (talk) 09:03, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
An Old topic now that is still not resolved. I have to agree that "Found Dead" is not very dignified or polite Im not debating the date of death but can we try and use different wording or even put a note with a caveat.Chiefmanzzz (talk) 03:02, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Mail from Gerard J Holzmann, ex Bell Labs, author of the "Alumni of the Bell Labs Computing Sciences Research Center" page, answering my demand for date details (reproduced here with his permission):

I learned of Dennis's death on Wednesday October 12.
The news reached us from Bill Ritchie, Dennis's brother, who
found him that day, in his house.  Dennis was thought to have
passed away sometime over the weekend -- so October 8 or 9.
I've used October 9 as the best available guess.
In the NYT obituary that appeared on October 14 Steve Lohr
accurately notes that he was found dead on October 12 -- which
is I think all we can say with accuracy....

--Nilx (talk) 16:59, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

  • For the opening sentence, how about "(September 9, 1941 – c. October 12, 2011)"? This is conventional usage when exact vital dates are unknown. Leave it to the body of the article to explain why the date of death is uncertain. I agree with those who say it is vulgar to put it in the lede. ~ Ningauble (talk) 15:34, 22 March 2012 (UTC)

Hi Everyone. I've recently been in contact with Dennis Ritchie's family to resolve this. Stay on the line; I'll keep you posted. --Aerovistae — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aerovistae (talkcontribs) 19:53, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

That may not help. We can't use personal knowledge. Everything we report has to be verifiable in reliable sources. Msnicki (talk) 22:32, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

And who better to get a reliable source from? I don't understand your argument. Is the newspaper a reliable source? If so, where are they getting their information? Oftentimes from direct interviews. What's wrong with cutting out the middleman? Aerovistae (talk) 21:48, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

The family could be a great source as long as it's reliably reported and verifiable. If the family releases a statement to the press, we could use that. What we can't use is personal knowledge, even if it did come from a conversation with the family because that can't be verified and because none of us (mostly anonymous) editors are reliable sources. Msnicki (talk) 15:43, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Hmm. The family has informed me that the date on his death certificate, as written by a doctor, is October 12. Is there any way to make this a usable source? Aerovistae (talk) 23:45, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Is "found dead" the first thing one needs to know?[edit]

Ever since Dennis Ritchie passed away, circa 12 October 2011, there has been a long-running slow-motion edit war over whether the circumstance of being FOUND DEAD should be included in the lead section and infobox. ~ Ningauble (talk) 19:27, 2 July 2013 (UTC)

Details
  • Note that there is a consensus in the discussion at #Different death dates above that in consequence of that circumstance, described in the body of the article, the exact date on which he died is not known.
  • It has repeatedly been asserted, most recently here and here today, that there is a consensus for prominently mentioning the circumstance of being found dead in the lead section and infobox, but this is not explicit in the discussion above.

In order to clarify or establish a consensus, I am requesting comment on the following proposal:

Should we remove information about being "found dead" from the lead section and the infobox, and instead give the date of death as "c. October 12, 2011" in both places?

Some applicable guidelines include Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biographies#Opening paragraph, Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lead section#Introductory text, and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers#Dates of birth and death.

I am making a formal request for comment because my previous suggestion bulleted above was ignored as people continued to focus on uncertainty about the date. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:50, 2 July 2013 (UTC)


  • Support because this desultory circumstance has no bearing on any information needed for WP:OPENPARAGRAPH. It is a commonplace situation, and it is not at all common to note it this prominently in Wikipedia articles. Numerous people have remarked, on the talk page and in edit summaries, that this is inappropriate. Featuring it in the lead section and infobox gives the impression of hinting at startling facts (cf. WP:MOSINTRO) that are significant to the person's notability, but this is not the first thing one needs to know about Dennis Ritchie. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:50, 2 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. Seems reasonable. MOS:DOB seems clear on this issue. NinjaRobotPirate (talk) 19:35, 2 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. A 'circa' is quite adequate. It is not particularly interesting that he passed away alone, and grows less so as the event of his death recedes and his life is more easily seen in better perspective. William Avery (talk) 19:59, 2 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Support - as per Ningauble above. Also, for people interested into trivia like this, the circumstances are discussed further down in the article, so we don't need to repeat them in the intro, which should only state and summarize important stuff. --Matthiaspaul (talk) 20:16, 2 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. I've done my share of reverting the changes but only because it did appear we had a consensus, not out of any particular love for the "found dead" notation. In any event, consensus can certainly change. I agree that MOS:DOB supports the use of c. (circa). Msnicki (talk) 21:49, 2 July 2013 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done after listing at WP:RFC/BIO for one week without objection. I leave it for someone else to consider moving extensive citations from lead section to article body. Thanks to everyone who commented. ~ Ningauble (talk) 12:30, 10 July 2013 (UTC)

Really much better now, thanks. Sometimes small changes can make a difference. --Matthiaspaul (talk) 13:06, 10 July 2013 (UTC)

Why mention Steve Jobs at all?[edit]

Why is there a mention of Steve Jobs in this article at all? While the sentence is indeed factual, it is, in my opinion, irrelevant. 2crudedudes (talk) 02:40, 3 October 2014 (UTC)

Because they died around the same time, and the two deaths drew comparisons in the news media. Huihermit (talk) 05:35, 3 October 2014 (UTC)

Section: Views on computing[edit]

This section is apocryphal. Some FOSS wingnut trying to put words in a dead man's mouth. Remove. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.255.20.188 (talkcontribs) 02:23, 25 August 2015

It's from a published interview from 1999. Huihermit (talk) 14:37, 28 October 2015 (UTC)