Julie Beth Lovins
1945-Jan. 26, 2018
Mountain View, California
Submitted by Amory B. Lovins
Civic activist, engaged citizen, and "Language Doctor" Julie B. Lovins, 72, died peacefully and comfortably on January 26 at her Old Mountain View home, where she had been in hospice care since May. Many friends, neighbors, and caregivers wonderfully supported her journey.
Julie's glioblastoma—an aggressive, incurable, and decreasingly rare brain cancer—was diagnosed in October 2016 just 18 days after the unexpected death of her husband of nearly 29 years, engineer Dr. Greg Fowler, a prominent and equally brilliant advocate for civic and environmental issues and for the blind.
Their loving partnership in service to society was far more than the sum of its parts, and did much to make their community more lovely, responsible, and fair.
Born in Washington, DC, Julie grew up on the East Coast, attended high school in Amherst, Massachusetts, and earned her honors AB at Pembroke College (now Brown University) and an MA and PhD in linguistics at the University of Chicago. After teaching Japanese phonology at prestigious Tokyo universities for three years, she implemented early speech synthesis at Bell Labs, then engineered software at seven Silicon Valley firms and consulted on computational linguistics for many more through the 1990s.
Fifty years ago, she famously invented the first "stemming algorithm" that cuts endings off a word until just its meaning-bearing stem is left-enabling computers to understand and synthesize human speech. Many remember her as a penetrating teacher of clear, vigorous, and precise expression.
On September 5, 2017, the Mayor's tribute in City Council, describing Julie's diverse and devoted civic efforts, said of her and Greg (http://mountainview.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2786, at 5:00–10:35): "They enlightened our discourse and anchored our civic conscience. Few have done so much to make our lives better. This couple set us a high standard for what it means to be citizens of a democracy."
Her public service was vast, her philanthropy discreet, and her attention to detail peerless. A neighbor recalls "Julie's passion, commitment, and her dry quirky sense of humor." During her frequent walks, listening to her "covering political or technical topics, with her sharp asides under a sly glance, [was] always a delight. Our neighborhood and Mountain View are a better place for her involvement and constant caring." Another summed her up as "Dependable, indefatigable, irreplaceable, irreproducible!"
Julie's parents, engineer Gerald H. Lovins and social service administrator Miriam Lovins, are deceased. She is survived by her brother, Dr. Amory Lovins of Old Snowmass, Colorado (cofounder and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute); her cousin, biologist Dr. David Smernoff of Portola Valley (Board President of Grassroots Ecology and co-founder of HelioBioSys); her college roommate and 52-year friend Kathryn Connell of Emeryville, another frequent companion throughout her illness; and her many friends and admirers in the Mountain View community and beyond.
The best tribute to Julie's 38 years as a pillar of this community would be to carry on her and Greg's work, uphold their standards, share their inspiration, and emulate their example.
Tags: public service