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September 4, 2008 at 10:42 AM

Accomplished Microsoft mathematician died in hiking accident

Authorities identified the hiker who died in the Guye Peak area of the Cascades on Monday as Oded Schramm, a researcher in the theory group of Microsoft Research.

An internal e-mail from Rico Malvar, Microsoft Research Distinguished Engineer and general manager, describes Schramm:

“I am deeply saddened to share the news that Oded Schramm, a Principal Researcher in the Theory group here in Redmond, died yesterday in a tragic hiking accident. Oded was a valued member of the Redmond lab for more than nine years, and a friend to many in the broader MSR and Microsoft communities. I know that many of you knew Oded well and worked with him over his tenure here.

“Oded was a towering figure, an extraordinary mathematician, widely considered to be the most influential probabilist in the world. His revolutionary work completely transformed our understanding of critical processes in two dimensions, tying probability theory to analysis and topology like never before. As fitting tributes to the impact of his work, he received the Erdos Prize in Mathematics in 1996, the Salem Prize in 2001, the Clay Research Award in 2002, the Poincare Prize in 2003, the Loeve Prize in 2003, the Polya Prize in 2006 and the Ostrowski Prize in 2007. He was elected as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2008. On the theory group webpage, Oded listed his interests: percolation, two dimensional random systems, critical systems, SLE, conformal mappings, dynamical random systems, discrete and coarse geometry, and mountains.

“Oded was a remarkable individual: always calm, humble, generous with his insights and ideas, the best collaborator one could hope for and a person who could always be relied upon. Our thoughts and hearts are with Oded’s family. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

“As the family makes plans for a memorial service, we will share those details with you.”

Here’s our brief coverage of the accident and recovery, from today’s paper:

A 46-year-old hiker from Sammamish died Monday in an apparent fall while hiking in the Guye Peak area of the Cascades, near Snoqualmie Pass.

The victim, identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office as Oded Schramm, was an experienced hiker who was by himself, had parked his car at Alpental’s Snow Lake Trailhead. When he didn’t return as planned, his wife called the Sheriff’s Office about 9:45 p.m. Monday. Deputies found his car still at the trailhead. Schramm was a researcher for Microsoft.

A search-and-rescue operation began searching early Tuesday. Rescuers in a helicopter spotted the man shortly after 7:30 a.m. Ground searchers reached him about 8 a.m., but he was already dead.

Technical rescue work was needed to move the man’s body to an area where the Guardian One helicopter could take it off the mountain.

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