RIP Bennett Robinson

This morning I learned that Bennett Robinson passed away about a year ago.

I met Bennett on a flight from Singapore to Bangkok, he gave me the push to actually install Linux on my laptop. He was running it himself (a man in his sixties), and convinced me it was easy to make the switch. We kept in touch. There was talk of working together on a few projects, but nothing materialised on that front.

Bennett was a real open source evangelist. His business was built around open source software. He presented it as a genuine business alternative to commercially licensed software. It was inspiring to see a man of such experience so vibrantly engaging with the concept.

I’ll be back in Bangkok in a month, so I dropped Bennett an email. It bounced. I tracked him down online to the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand. They kindly informed me of his passing. He was skiing in Japan when he suffered a heart attack they said.

Bennett left a wife and young children, my condolences to them. Bennett my friend, rest in peace.

24 thoughts on “RIP Bennett Robinson”

  1. I met Bennett almost 50 years ago in Los Angeles. He came out to LA because he learned education was free with the state schools. We ran the streets for 5 years then I got married. He used my physics laboratory notes for one of the classes. Then one day he came in and told me he was going to Stanford to get hs PhD in physics. When he was talking with Stanford they said it is one of the toughest physics schools in the world. He replied “that’s why I’m here”.

    RIP

  2. Thank you so much! I am Dr. Robinson’s oldest daughter, Bahiyah, from his first marriage. My younger sister (also from his first marriage) was researching to see if anything new came up on my dad and found your blog.

    It’s great to find out how he touched many different people in the same way, especially during his 10 years living in Thailand. He was always trying to figure out how things worked, from his Venice days, to Stanford, to his research at IBM, to his own business in Bangkok. Both my sister and I have fond and intimate memories of being intellectually challenged by our dad!

    Bennett Robinson had an adventurous spirit, a powerful intellect, and the rare ability to connect with people on both technical and human terms. He will always be missed. RIP Dad! 😉

    Also, Mr. Martin, if you see this response, we would love to talk to about my dad’s early days- he lived a rich life, much of which we know only bits until he married my mom. My email is yuniversal (at) hotmail [dot] com. Thanks!

    1. I knew Bennett at Douglas Aircraft in the early 1960’s. we worked on a few projects together. Ounce went to his apartment in Venice to meet his girl friend. I always wondered what happened to Bennett and was not surprised that he got a PhD at Stanford.

  3. I just wanted to leave a short comment. I am a close friend of Bennett’s first daughter, Bahiyah Yasmeen. Unfortunately I only had the pleasure of meeting Bennett Robinson once. First I’d like to thank Bahiyah for giving me the honor and the privilege of meeting her father. I found Bennett to be a very articulate and intellectual individual. Although we were only able to spend a few hours together, the experience moved me. Our conversation topics ranged from life to science to photography and Bennett was extremely knowledgeable on them all. I didn’t get enough time to really know Bennett, but I was very impressed with his persona right from the start. Now I can see where Bahiyah gets her extraordinary intellect I admire so much. Bennett definitely made an strong impact upon me in the short time I was in his presence. A beautiful mind indeed. Here’s to you Bennett. My love to the entire Robinson family.

  4. I worked in Staford from 1971 to 1975 and met a guy who was f
    inishing his PH degree on science, something related with physics. We also lived next door in Palo Alto. I went back to my country, Guatemala, and never heard of him again.
    by the time I lived in Palo Alto I was a close friend of Bennett; he was so kind with me that I still remember his smooth personality and generosity as well as open mind person.
    A few days ago I was telling my wife where can Bennett be today so we decide to look on the net and found this page today.
    I am not sure we are talking about the same persona, Bennet was an afroamerican. are we talking about the same person.
    saludos, Gonzalo

  5. @Gonzalo Moran: I think we might be talking about the same Bennett Robinson. He is indeed an African American. I’m not sure when or where he got his PhD, but he was Dr Bennett Robinson when I met him.

  6. Bahiyah, I don’t know if you remember me. I am Maurice McGlashan-Powell. I met you dad when I first joined IBM in 1991. My son, Rahsaan, and I use to hang out with you and Bennett in the Village (Greenwich Village N.Y.). I am so sorry to hear about Bennett. He left such a lasting impression on me. I was just talking about him on Sunday evening and wondering how he was doing. I found one of his first business cards for OSICM -group when I was cleaning up my place. It still had his Washington street address on it. Though I lost touch with him after he left IBM he never left me heart. I have always wanted to find him. After finding the card I went looking for him on the web only to find this. When I first came to IBM Bennett took me under his wings. There were so few African American physicists at IBM that just having someone like Bennett to talk to was wonderful. We were both New Yorkers, though I was the Jamaican in New York. We were both physicists and at the time we were both single parents and even though I was quite a few years younger than Bennett we just clicked. Both you and Rahsaan are about the same age so even that we had in common. Your Dad was the best. He was the coolest dude I ever met. He taught me a great deal. I loved him dearly and I will miss him. It breaks my heart to have to tell Rahsaan about his passing. My son had a great deal of regard for your Dad. I will send you an e-mail.

    My deepest Condolences
    Maurice

    p.s. Callum, thank you for sharing this.

    1. I am so sorry to learn about Bennett’s passing and my deepest condolences to you and the family. I met Bennett at IBM and we used to have lunch together many times. I once mentioned Bennett’s name in passing and was surprised to learn that he was known by many faculty members at Polytechnic University along with the chairman of the physics department there at the time who had attended Stanford University with him. Bennett was always very helpful to me despite his busy schedule, and I enjoyed our talks very much. I will miss him dearly.

      Sincerely,
      Philip Williams

  7. This evening my husband Edward P. Clarke Jr. ran into Maurice McGlashan-Powell at a pizza place near the lab. It was by sheer coincidence tonight that he saw his old friend, Maurice who informed Ed about the passing of Bennett. Ed came home sad after hearing this. I call their meeting -sheer coincidence because Maurice is flying tomorrow to his new position at I believe the University of Jamaica. Ed would not have known about the passing of Bennett if it was not for Maurice. I remember meeting Bennett for the first time. He had so much energy and “light”. He spoke so eloquently and gave me a memento from the visit-some stress “squeeze” ball. I kept thinking I just met the man and he is giving me a gift! I did not want this moment to pass without stating that we share in this sadness and give our deepest sympathy to his family.

  8. Callum, thank you so much for posting this! I’ve heard great things about you from my sister, and it’s such a pleasure to check back in and see all of the people from my father’s past who remember him so warmly, even after so many years! Even though he has been gone for a few years now, I still miss him like it was yesterday. Thank you all for taking the time to share your memories and kind words–it truly means so much!!

    1. Hello Dayka:
      I was greatly saddened to learn of your father’s passing. I’ve included below the comments that I made today in answer to another. I have 2 or 3 photos of your father, taken in the late 60’s. If you wish, please let me know where to send them.

      Warmest Regards,
      Steve Jacobsen
      ===========

      Hello: Today, 4/2/2011, in a nostalgic frame of mind, I decided to see if I could find long-lost friends. I was astonished to stumble across the above comments about “Bennett Robinson”, almost certainly the Bennett Robinson who was my friend and room mate during one or more years during our undergraduate years at UCLA. I don’t exactly recall how Bennett and I met, but I’m sure it had to do with our roots in NYC. Bennett attended my wedding in 1963, the year I left for graduate school, and the year where our friendship gradually faded, due to the usual business of taking on more complicated lives. To this day, I have hanging in my room a photograph of my wife and I at LAX, a photograph that Bennett took. I went on to Berkeley and Bennett to Stanford. We were very good friends; I would appreciate some replies, especially from his family and close friends. I have quite a few anecdotes that may be of interest.

      1. Hi Mr. Jacobsen,
        Just the other day i was sitting down talking with my Parents about the earlier days when they first met. The name Bennett Robinson came up. As i sit here reading the various post, I am reassured that this is the same Mr. Robinson that they spoke of. My parents are in their early 70’s, and live in the Los Angeles area. Your post to his Daughter included the possible forwarding of some earlier pictures of Mr. Bennett from the 60’s. If your willing to share those with me I would appreciate it, but more so the chance to allow my Parents to re-connect with some of there past memories of a Friend they once shared good times with . Thank you. (haironfiree at yahoo dot com)

    1. I’m not certain where Bennett’s second wife was from. I know that she lived in Singapore with their children and I believe she was of Chinese origin. It does sound like the same Bennett Robinson, but I can’t be 100% certain based on what you’ve told me.

  9. Hello: Today, 4/2/2011, in a nostalgic frame of mine, I decided to see if I could find long-lost friends. I was astonished to stumble across the above comments about “Bennett Robinson”, almost certainly the Bennett Robinson who was my friend and room mate during one or more years during our undergraduate years at UCLA. I don’t exactly recall how Bennett and I met, but I’m sure it had to do with our roots in NYC. Bennett attended my wedding in 1963, the year I left for graduate school, and the year where our friendship gradually faded, due to the usual business of taking on more complicated lives. To this day, I have hanging in my room a photograph of my wife and I at LAX, a photograph that Bennett took. I went on to Berkeley and Bennett to Stanford. We were very good friends; I would appreciate some replies, especially from his family and close friends. I have quite a few anecdotes that may be of interest.

  10. I was in the same physics class at Stanford as Bennett. Yesterday I was telling my son what an amazing fellow Bennett was, and then found this page. He was so helpful and friendly in my first year in the US. He was also fun and smart, a pleasure to be around. Very smart. One time around 1971, Bennett stopped a guy who was about to steal a LOT of expensive equipment. The thief came in looking official, was rolling stuff on a card to the truck, and everyone else assumed he was legit, with only Bennett having the smarts to ask the guy for his credentials. So sorry to read that he’s gone.

    1. Inga-that indeed sounds like my dad! Thank you for your kind words about him and also sharing your memories. 🙂 Something told me to check this page–glad to see your comment!

  11. I knew Dayka and Bahiayah when Dayka was only 2 years old and Bahiyah was maybe 5? Dayka attended Gingerbread School and I was the assistant teacher. Susan Reiss was Dayka’s Head teacher.

    I remember the whole family-Linda, and Bennett. He was always warm, personable and very accessible to talk to as a parent. Both parents very involved–and our favorite family. I do not mean –just the 2’s classroom–I mean the entire school. I can say that now..and not get in trouble with the other families.

    I still remember the home on Washington street–near Gingerbread–which was on 490 Hudson Street! I looked up Bennett to o see how Dayka–who was SUCH a princess in school was doing. She was so adored and popular with everyone—I thought I’d see how she and Bahiyah were doing.

    Looking up Bennett–and coming across some of the notices–I was hoping I had the wrong person. I did not know him–only as a teacher who visited their home for a home visit and then many years later, later, spoke to him on the street when I ran into him with Dayka and Bahiyah. I was struck, then by his sensitivity to his two children as we all spoke. I have never forgotten it. Truly a light. And I am sad today..

    1. Kathy!! You have a very good memory and I must say, I actually have great memories of my Gingerbread days, too! Not many details (except for picture day & nap time) but I still feel a certain warmth when I think about all of my teachers from those days (Roe!). I just sent you a message via Linkedin and would love to reconnect.

  12. I was searching the web today for a “Bennett” (last name) in some context and it occurred to me that I had not looked up Bennett Robinson for a long time. Having found this page, I have to count this as a very sad day for me indeed. I am writing from Bangalore, India, my hometown, to which I returned in 1990, having worked at IBM with Bennett from about 1983-90. I was a post-doc and was assigned to work with Bennett. Right away,we hit it off like we knew each other all our lives, If I ever had a kindred spirit, it would be Bennett. (He did a marvelous job of designing a microwave-plasma system, which showcased the engineer hiding behind the physicist. We worked with it together.) The last time I met him was in 1994, when I visited the US, and found that Bennett was setting up his OS/ICM venture,. I traced him to Thailand a few years later and I invited him to Bangalore, which was now on his “map” because of his IT venture. He planned to be here for a visit, but that never materialised. I wrote to him again in about 2006, but I am not sure that my mail reached him. During my years at IBM, Bennett spoke to me a lot about his daughters, whom he missed badly, and whom I met once, in the late eighties. His love for his (first) daughter was reflected in the Email address he chose, in the ancient, early days of IBM internal Email. It was bahiyah@yktvmz. I feel privileged that he would recount to me stories of how he had to deal with discrimination in the allotment of the co-op (condo?) he had on Washington Street. We shared a lot of laughs also – he had such a hearty laugh. We were on the same wavelength so much that we would complete each other’s sentences. I will miss very much, and I wish I had had at least another meeting with him. To Bahiyah and Dayka: Your Dad used to talk to me about you all the time. You are very lucky to have had such a wonderful person for your Dad. Best wishes to both of you.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! Very cool to learn that my sister’s name was once his email address…I didn’t know that and I’m quite sure she didn’t either! My dad was very good about responding via email so chances are he never received your message back in 2006. My sister and I didn’t learn about the Washington St. fiasco until a few months before he passed and it’s been great to know that he fought for that apartment that we loved so much. Thanks again for sharing your memories with us! Callum has been a HUGE blessing for leaving this blog/post up.

      Blessings!
      Dayka

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