Luca and Terry Tao have already reported the tragic loss of the brilliant probabilist Oded Schramm in a hiking accident. I didn’t know Oded, but I knew some of his great results and was deeply saddened by the news. My heartfelt condolences go out to his friends and family.
It was two years ago that we lost Misha Alekhnovich, who I did know, in a whitewater rafting accident. Other mathematicians and scientists lost in similar ways have included Heinz Pagels, Jacques Herbrand, Raymond Paley, Krzysztof Galicki, and Erik Rauch. The teenage Einstein very nearly died while hiking on a mountain near Zurich. I have more than one irreplaceable colleague who’s repeatedly courted death on the ski slopes.
I’d like to issue a plea to any mathematicians and scientists who might be reading: please go easier on the extreme outdoor activities. Let those who live for such things demonstrate their daring by gambling their lives; those who live for the ages can find safer recreations. The world needs more nerds, not fewer.