Home Computer graphics In memory of Leland Wilkinson, chief scientist at H2O.ai, pioneer in data visualization and lighting | Your money

In memory of Leland Wilkinson, chief scientist at H2O.ai, pioneer in data visualization and lighting | Your money


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif .– (BUSINESS WIRE) – Dec. 17 2021–

Leland Wilkinson, H2O.ai Chief Scientist, our brilliant, beloved and kind friend, colleague, mentor, scholar, author, entrepreneur, musician, pioneer and authority on data visualization and statistical graphics, passed away on Friday, December 10 in Lake Forest, in the ‘Illinois, following a stroke. His passing is an incredible loss to our community, and he will be sorely missed.

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Leland Wilkinson (Photo: Business Wire)

Leland’s work and writings will be celebrated and live on in the many brilliant collaborations, discussions, students, colleagues and lives he has inspired. Its impact will continue to be felt in the statistics, data visualization, data science and machine learning communities. H2O.ai Fellows recognize individual creators who have made iconic contributions and sustained technical achievement to advance the democratization of AI. The H2O.ai Fellows unanimously named Leland a H2O.ai Fellow, posthumously, for his contributions to the community, customers and the H2O.ai Code. The Leland Wilkinson Prize for AI and Data Visualization and a series of lectures and meetings at the H2O World conference this spring will be dedicated to celebrating Leland’s life and work.

“Lee created, taught, learned and fabricated until the end. He inspired all of our Makers at H2O.ai, and data scientists around the world, with his genius and humanity. His work, his writings and his memories will live with us and our journey, ”said Sri Ambati, CEO and Founder of H2O.ai.

Please share memories, stories and thoughts as together we remember and celebrate Leland’s life and legacy at https://www.h2O.ai/leland

About Leland Wilkinson

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Leland wrote SYSTAT, the first comprehensive statistical software designed specifically for microcomputers. This represented an end to the punch cards, queues, and mainframe computers required for statistical analysis at that time. The program was the first of its kind to include full graphics driven by a command structure of universally applicable options, foreshadowing the graphic structure that Leland would develop and articulate more fully during the 1990s. SYSTAT was also the first software implementation of now widely used heat map display. He founded SYSTAT, a company of the same name, headquartered in Evanston, Illinois, and then sold SYSTAT to SPSS in 1995. He then assembled a team of graphics programmers who developed the nViZn platform. which produces visualizations in SPSS, Clementine, and other analysis services. Leland wrote the seminal book on statistical graphics, his magnum opus, The grammar of graphic design, in 1999. The grammar of graphic design provided a new way to create and describe data visualizations, a language – or grammar – for specifying visual elements on a plot, which was a completely new idea that fundamentally shaped modern data visualization. The book served as the basis for the R ggplot2 package, the Python Bokeh package, the R ggbio package, and helped shape the Polaris project at Stanford University.

Leland received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from Harvard Divinity School, and a doctorate from Yale. He was an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a member of the American Statistical Association, an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He won the National Computer Graphics Association Best Speaker Award and the Youden Award for Best Exhibit Paper in the Journal of Statistics. Technometry. He served on the Applied and Theoretical Statistics Committee of the National Research Council, was Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS), and served on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) at UCLA. In addition to The grammar of graphic design, numerous journal articles, the original SYSTAT computer program and textbooks, and patents in visualization and distributed analytical computing, Leland is the author (with Grant Blank and Chris Gruber) of Office data analysis with SYSTAT and co-author of Demystifying AI for Business, to be released this month.

To learn more about Leland’s life and work, please visit:



The grammar of graphic design, his magnum opus.


About H2O.ai

H2O.ai is the leading AI cloud company, with a mission to democratize AI for everyone. Customers use the H2O AI Cloud to quickly solve complex business problems and accelerate the discovery of new ideas. H2O.ai is the trusted AI provider for over 20,000 global organizations including AT&T, Allergan, Bon Secours Mercy Health, GlaxoSmithKline, Hitachi, Kaiser Permanente, Procter & Gamble, PayPal, PwC, Reckitt, Unilever, Walgreens, more than half of the Fortune 500 and a million data scientists. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Goldman Sachs, NVIDIA and Wells Fargo are not only customers and partners, but strategic investors in the company. H2O.ai customers honored the company with an industry-leading Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 78 based on the breadth of technology and in-depth employee expertise. Over 20 of the world’s top Kaggle Grandmasters (the community of top machine learning practitioners and data scientists) are employees of H2O.ai. A strong AI for Good philosophy to make the world a better place and responsible AI are the driving forces behind the company’s goal. Please join our movement at www.H2O.ai.

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