Best Wishes for Your Retirement, John!

Yihui Xie 2021-04-27

A month ago, I heard from John Kimmel, our dear editor at Chapman & Hall, had decided to retire soon. I was a little sad that he wouldn’t be here for my future books. The last time I met John was at rstudio::conf(2020) in SF. I asked him of his age, but I don’t remember the exact number now. It should be 70+ (perhaps 74), so the retirement is definitely well-deserved.

I was first introduced to John in 2012 by another author, and didn’t think much about him in the beginning. A few months later, I heard randomly a praise of John from an attendee of the Chinese R Conference, who also happened to be an editor. I don’t remember her original words, but it was something like “John is an editor who deeply cares about the interest of authors, and cares about it even much more than the interest of publishers.” I was intrigued, with awe.

In the following nine years, he helped me publish five books, and also introduced a super supportive production team to me (e.g., Becky). The collaboration has always been pleasant and smooth. I’ve met him at several conferences. Each time he was carrying a notebook (like Ian), taking notes of my random thoughts.

If I were to name the No.1 hustle that I did with him over these years, I think it would be bookdown, and more importantly, the free and open books written with bookdown. I’m really glad that John managed to convince Chapman & Hall of allowing the online versions of books to be free. I also love the random emails from John telling me that they just had another book written in bookdown (for example).

I asked John if he’d like to write something about his splendid career. He mentioned that someone else once asked him to list ten of his favorite books, and he included the CART book (Classification and Regression Trees by Breiman et. al) and the S book, which were published in 1984 (which happened to be the year when I was born). I wouldn’t be here without the S language (R’s predecessor). I’d be extremely proud if anything I’ve done today would still have an impact when one of today’s newborns grows up.

Thanks for your lifelong service to the statistics and R community, John! I wish you will enjoy your new priorities. All the best!

P.S. Chapman & Hall has prepared a farewell card for John, and I’m sure everyone will be amazed by John’s career: