Richard Stallman

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Apr 2 07:36:40 MST 2002

Code free or die
A new biography of Richard Stallman looks at how the free software
mastermind got to be so single-mindedly stubborn.

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By Andrew Leonard,

April 2, 2002  |  In the fall of 2000, Sam Williams, author of "Free as in
Freedom," sent me an e-mail asking me if he could discuss an ethical
question about Richard Stallman. I had to smile. I didn't know Williams
personally, other than as a journalistic colleague who covered the
free-software/open-source software beat, but I could easily imagine what
the trouble was. Stallman was being prickly, and a prickly Stallman is no


The product of a broken home, Stallman had unhappy relationships with both
his parents. At the same time, his father fought in WWII and then protested
the Vietnam War, and his mother worked to reform the Democratic Party;
those influences helped shape an uncompromising activist unafraid to
challenge the powers that be.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, where he discovered a passion and a talent
for folk dancing, Stallman displayed an aptitude for math that dazzled his
fellow students. He is often called a genius by his admirers, but Williams
digs deeper into the details, and shows us some of the truly amazing feats
he was capable of, whether they were programming stunts or displays of pure
math brilliance.


Louis Proyect
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