Graeme Mitchison

Astronomy began when the Babylonians mapped the heavens. Our descendants will certainly not say that biology began with today’s genome projects, but they may well recognize that a great acceleration in the accumulation of biological knowledge began in our era.

Graeme Mitchison wrote those opening lines of our book¬†Biological Sequence Analysis¬†in Richard Durbin’s parents’ house in London. We four coauthors had borrowed the house for a month to write together, knowing that we had to get Richard out of the Sanger Centre or no progress would be made. The living room looked like a spy ring’s safe house, drapes drawn and full of improvised desks, computers, printer, and papers. We paired off in warring alliances to write, to cook, to argue, and to take long walks on the Hampstead Heath to cool down. At one point over a late dinner and wine, Anders Krogh proposed that one could make a hidden Markov model to recognize each of our writing styles. Richard proposed that mine could be recognized trivially by a high emission probability of the word “simple”. I recall snapping something back. I was struggling to draft our introduction and feeling defensive. At some point Graeme took it from me and in a few strokes replaced my clumsy efforts with the chapter that began with the beautiful lines above.

Continue reading →

In memoriam.


Human language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity.

— Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

I regret to announce the untimely death Monday morning of Michael Farrar, principal software engineer for the Eddy lab. Michael was a critical part of our lab and an extraordinarily talented colleague. The lab is stunned. He is greatly, greatly missed. This will of course impact the HMMER3 development roadmap and our lab’s plans for the future. I will discuss business at some later time. Our thoughts now are with Michael’s wife and his three children.