previous next Up Title Contents Index

Ray Boyce

Don Chamberlin: Working with Ray was one of the great privileges I've had in my career. I didn't get to do it for very long, but it's something I'll always remember. Ray grew up in New York State on the west side of the Hudson River. He went to college in Providence, Rhode Island. He met his wife Sandy there. She was a nursing student. He got his PhD in Purdue and he was one of the few people I ever met who actually liked it in West Lafayette, Indiana. After he left Purdue he joined the group that I was working in, in Yorktown Heights, New York, where we were just beginning to work on database projects under Frank King.

Ray was a person who made things happen. He was a very smart and very ambitious guy and had a lot of energy. I really think Ray, if he'd lived, would have been in the class with Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison and Bill Gates - everybody would know Ray's name, I think, if he was alive today. Ray and I worked together in a very close collaboration in the early days on the SQL language - it was called SEQUEL in those days. This collaboration was so close that at the end of the day neither one of us could remember what ideas each one of us had contributed to the work. So it was a very close partnership. The main difference between Ray and me was Ray was a lot more interested in management than I was, so when it came time to choose a manager for the group, Ray was the one who got the job, and I thought that was a real good division of labor. So Ray was my boss for a while.

He and Sandy had a daughter Kristen just a few months after they arrived in California. Ray and Irv Traiger were the two managers under Frank King in the early days of System R. I had a car pool with Ray and one day in the spring of 1974 I drove Ray to work and after lunch I heard a kind of rumor in the building that Ray had collapsed at lunch time. He was the picture of health - he was strong and vigorous and I didn't have any clue that he had any sort of health problems. One day at lunch he just kind of fell over, and he was taken to the hospital. He had an aneurysm of the brain, which is a blood vessel that swells up and bursts inside the brain. He was taken to Valley Medical Center and was operated on and lived for a short time after his operation, but he died on Father's Day in 1974. His daughter was only about nine months old when he died.

His wife and daughter still live in San Jose and we've kept in close touch with them over the years. Sandy went back to school and got her master's degree in clinical psychology. She's working as a counselor now for children and foster parents. Kristen grew up and went to the University of California at Santa Barbara where she still is - my daughter is there, too. She got married last year and will graduate from UCSB this year with a bachelor's degree and she's going to stay there and work on her teaching credential.

So I think the most important things to Ray were his work and his family. I think he would have been real proud of what became of his work. In the short period that he had, which was not quite two years long, he invented Boyce-Codd Normal Form, which is still taught in textbooks; he developed the SQL language, which some people still remember. So I think he would have been real proud of that, and I think he would have been real proud of the way his family turned out. I wish Ray could have known the impact his work would have had.

previous next Up Title Contents Index