Farewell to Peter Lyman


I was shocked and saddened to read on Danah’s blog that Peter Lyman died yesterday from cancer.

Peter was the University Librarian at USC in the early ’90s, at a time when I was living in DC and looking for what to do next in my life. I interviewed with Peter and John Waiblinger and they offered me a job at USC, which I accepted.

Shortly after I accepted the job, Peter came to DC and we got together to chat. He was heading out to CNRI to meet with Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, and he invited me to come along. He was heading to Dulles after that, and asked if I’d drive to both CNRI and then take him to the airport. He was leaving on some overseas trip, and we soon realized that his huge suitcase and the Miata I was driving would present a challenge. We put the top down on the Miata, and Peter held onto the suitcase balanced on top of the trunk lid while I drove the Dulles toll road to Reston.

I still remember fondly sitting in the room with Peter and the two fathers of the Internet, soaking up the immense amount of intelligence that I was privileged to experience. The link between the library/information folks and the engineers forging the net was beginning to be formed in those early days, and Peter was one of those whose energy and intellect helped create much of what we now know as life on the net.

A week or so after that meeting the USC folks called to say that they had received a massive budget cut so wouldn’t be hiring after all, so I never got a chance to work for Peter, which I’ve always regretted (though he left shortly thereafter to go to Berkeley, and I ended up at the UW a year or so later).

I hadn’t seen Peter in a few years, and didn’t know he was sick. He’ll be sorely missed, though his presence will live on in the work of his students and those he mentored, like Danah.

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