Dr. Gray joined Microsoft in 1995 as a Technical Fellow, researcher, and manager of the Bay Area Research Center. His primary research interests were large databases and transaction processing systems. He had a long-standing interest in scalable computing, building super-servers and work group systems from commodity software and hardware. He received the Turing Award in 1998 “for seminal contributions to database and transaction processing research and technical leadership in system implementation.” His work since 2002 focused on eScience: applying computers to solve data-intensive scientific problems. This is being posited as the fourth paradigm of science after experimentation, theory, and simulation.
Jim pioneered database technology and was among the first to develop the technology used in computerized transactions. His work helped develop e-commerce, online ticketing, and automated teller machines. His later work on database technology has been used by oceanographers, geologists, and astronomers. Among his accomplishments at Microsoft are the TerraServer website and his work on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Microsoft’s World Wide Telescope software is dedicated to Jim.
On January 28, 2007, Jim disappeared at sea. In May 2008, a formal tribute and technical session was held at Jim’s alma mater, UC Berkeley. Hundreds of his friends and colleagues gathered together to celebrate his life, his friendships, and his achievements in the field of computer science.