In memoriam: Warren DeLano



PyMOL has starred in many journal covers

On Tuesday, November 3rd, the scientific community suffered a great loss with the passing of Warren DeLano. Most people know him as the creator of PyMOL, a popular and extremely powerful molecular visualization tool, but most – including myself, until recently – may not know all of the other unique qualities that made Warren a mentor, collaborator, inspiration and friend to many. And by making PyMOL open source, Warren demonstrated his generosity and ensured that his work would continue to help future generations of scientists.


One visit through the comments at the memorial site set up by his sister is more than enough to illustrate the impact Warren had, not only on the scientific community, but to individuals too many to count. He is also remembered through many blog posts (MacResearch, ByteSizeBio, ChemSpider) and on FriendFeed.

My own memory of Warren is fleeting and I did not fully appreciate the opportunity to engage with him until his untimely passing. I posted the following on his memorial site:

One Tuesday night this past February, a handful of young sciencey types gathered for an open science-themed meetup at the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto. Broadcast at short notice through FriendFeed and blogs, the gathering was small and I didn’t know who was going to show up (if at anyone!). It ended up being two guys from (the organizers), a guy from or formerly from Merck, myself – a graduate student at Stanford, …. and none other than Warren DeLano.

At the time, there seemed nothing out of the ordinary. But it was truly a wonderful thing that the creator of PyMOL would take a break from his work to stop by that blustery night (probably just taking a break from his work that evening) and engage in a discussion about open source and open science with a group of young science enthusiasts. I used PyMOL often in my graduate work (indeed, the “pretty pictures” were sometimes the only bright spot in the doldrums of a PhD!) and the fact that he was essentially a one-man show makes his contributions and his commitment to helping others even more incredible.

May all the memories of Warren inspire scientists everywhere to have the same generosity of spirit. His passing is a huge loss to the scientific community but his life was a tremendous gift.

My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Let us all remember Warren DeLano, who gave so much of himself to science. And if you have your own memories of Warren, please post them at his memorial site.


One Response to In memoriam: Warren DeLano

  1. Vinayak says:

    May his soul rest in peace! I met him just once (at the meetup you talk about above — Yes I was the Merck guy), he seemed very friendly and trying to gather some suggestions from us on how he could further enhance PyMol.

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