Fritz Leisch 1968-2024

We are deeply saddened to announce that our friend and colleague Friedrich (Fritz) Leisch has died.

Fritz obtained his Masters and Doctorate from the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). In 1994, he joined the Department of Statistics and Probability Theory at TU Wien as an assistant professor. He moved to the University of Munich (LMU München) in 2006 as a professor for Computational Statistics in the Institute of Statistics, becoming head of department in 2010. He returned to Vienna in 2011 to join the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) as head of the Institute of Applied Statistics and Computing.

Fritz’s contributions to statistical computing began in the early days of the R project when he was a pioneer of many important innovations. He was among the first developers who joined Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman to form the R Core Development Team in 1997. He co-founded the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) with Kurt Hornik, and developed much of the R package management system. He was a founding member of the editorial board of R News, which later evolved into The R Journal, and was the first Secretary General of the R Foundation for Statistical Computing when it was formed in 2003. Together with Kurt Hornik, Fritz organized the inaugural workshop on “Distributed Statistical Computing” (DSC) in Vienna in March 1999, which brought the R Core Team together for its first face-to-face meeting. Two further DSC conferences were held in 2001 and 2003, followed by the first useR! conference in 2004. These meetings did much to make Vienna the spiritual home of R.

Fritz was the first to apply literate programming concepts to the R language by developing the Sweave system that combines R and LaTeX in a single document. This introduced reproducible research to the R language and allowed the first package vignettes to be created, greatly enhancing the quality of R package documentation.

In addition to his contributions to the R project, Fritz’s research interests covered many areas including statistical computing, market segmentation, biostatistics, econometrics, classification, cluster analysis, time series analysis, software development and statistical applications in economics, management science and biomedical research. He taught generations of students at bachelor, master, and PhD level and introduced hundreds of useRs to proper R development in his “Introduction to R Programming” short course.

The R Core Team and the R community at large will miss a contributor, collaborator, teacher, colleague, and friend.