The Björn Jawerth Memorial Site

Thoughts & Memories

We have received many messages with thoughtful remembrances about Björn. We are trying to collect them all on this page, including the many memories and thoughts shared around the internet.

Please feel free to continue sharing using the comment box below or send us an email:


2 thoughts on “Thoughts & Memories

  1. Bjorn was and will continue to be a source of strength to me. I learned many things from him – brilliant ideas that changed the way I look at things. To me he embodied an openness of thinking that led the mind to explore and discover sights unseen. That is certainly the effect he had on me. He was also the kindest of persons I have known. His kindness reflected in the smallest of gestures. It was a way of life for him. He was my first boss and mentor and will always be my best.

  2. Not by any know transform—mathematical, physical or otherwise—could I even remotely claim any similarity to Gauss, or even a phantom of him; yet I am compelled in one instance, and beg forgiveness in such act, to borrow from Gauss his eponym for Newton, Summus, and claim that Björn is worthy of the same eponym based only his person, and further by his accomplishments, contributions, friendship, and general interest in humanity, life and the pursuit of happiness.

    Having worked with, discussed with, and argued with Björn for over 20 years, I know he would not approve of this title without at least some proof. If I have learned anything from Björn, and I have, I know that he would want, and appreciate, that any conjecture be subjected to at least five examples, well grounded in reality.

    So here are five examples to test my conjecture:

    1. Björn was a Discoverer. Certainly there is the very evident discovery of the foundations of wavelets that Björn both published (the Phi-transform) and shared with others who later would title the discovery “wavelets.” This discovery, while significant and of considerable impact, is only one of many. Björn was constantly and consistently unraveling mysteries of math, physics, economics, education, human nature, and society. He brought his significant analytic skills to bear on many problems and uncovered many interesting relationships. In fact, the method of “five examples” is a product of his discovering and analytic approach to problem solving. He was on the alert for new observations that added insight to his own understanding of reality, and was always willing to share those insights with others willing to listen—and some not so willing.

    2. Björn was an Inventor: A list of new ideas formulated and reduced to practice is evidenced in his numerous patents, but his inventing went much further. In applying his discoveries he was thinking well beyond the obvious to the deeper mysteries of nature and developing solutions that addressed the fundamental core of the problem. Examples are many and range from applications of wavelets to various signal processing solutions—some of which have yet to be understood by the active research community—to his work in text disambiguation, user interfaces, mobile interaction, script identification and generation, and a host of other areas. He was often critical of others who were ready to “go-to-market” with only a small understanding of a problem and a solution that barely scratched the surface, and almost certainly would not secure the larger opportunities and possibilities. Trivial pursuits were not in Björn’s nature. In his inventions, and in his perspective of any problem, Björn was skilled at digging deeper to understand many relationships and interrelationships. I used to say, “…to understand Björn you need to see that he plays a chess game looking 4 or 5 or 10 moves ahead, while the rest of us are lucky if are thinking even one move ahead.”

    3. Björn was a Mentor: Björn was always the “patient professor”, taking time to explain new ideas in different ways, taking pains to guide some of us less brilliant individuals (myself included) to understand what remained hidden to us. He was uniquely skilled in his ability to take a complex topic, reduce it to a basic or core idea and then lead the bright-eyed student back through the complexities of reality to understand how “it” all really worked. At times, I think, some “students” did not appreciate this approach, but I think they missed the value in what Björn was doing, that is, to give each of us ownership of the idea or solution or decision. It was not in his nature to only give an answer, but, rather, to ensure the answer was understood.

    4. Björn was a Defender: Björn fiercely defended his right to act as an independent person and the value of his ideas and accomplishments. He was tenacious in applying these defenses. He helped me to see the imbalance often created in the financing of a new idea between funder and inventor; where funder placed a greater value on funds than on the idea. His defense was not only for his ideas, but also ideas of others and other people. He would encourage others to stand for their individuality. He would challenge people who were being bullies or arrogantly/ignorantly thinking they were deserving of something that was not theirs to have. He also defended liberty and the responsibilities that accompany liberty. He defended a wonderful vision of fairness.

    5. Björn Loved Life: Björn loved living and he encouraged others to live similarly. Even at the worst of his battle with cancer, he kept discovering, mentoring, inventing and defending. He was almost always available for a casual conversation or a deeper discussion. He enjoyed listening to others and learning about their insights and challenges; he was generally interested in people. For him, there was really only one direction in life: full speed forward. He focused on a broad study of life from nature to personality, from mathematics to perception, from simple fun to master achievement, and from creative experimentation to deep thought. He was a positive “force” to living and the living. He lived to the fullest measure.

    For one person to excel in any one of these areas is an achievement, to excel in all of them, I submit, is to describe a person worthy of the eponym “Summus.”

    To my friend, mentor, and a voice of my conscience, I miss you very much and I will forever remember you. You have given the world a lasting legacy from which I will derive energy, ideas, and joy for the remaining days I have yet to live.

    I close with a short quote from two characters who occupied both conversation and laughter through many of the challenging moments I shared with Björn:

    Pinky: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?
    Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!

    Thank you Brain. Thank you for all you have conquered, the world you have discovered, invented, mentored, defended and lived. Thank you for sharing it with me.

    May you be inspired, each day, by Björn’s life to ask what you will do and to go out and conqueror the world.

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