Journal of the Plague Year: Reality hits hard

Posted Thursday, March 19, 2020 in News

Journal of the Plague Year: Reality hits hard

by Gina Hamilton

March 19, 2020

I had just spoken to him on Monday. We'd had a conversation about the country's coronavirus response -- Stephen, predictably, argued both sides of the issue. On one hand, the country should do a lot more. On the other hand, it came with a loss of privacy and freedom.

I didn't speak to him on Tuesday. I found out Wednesday that was because he had been hospitalized with COVID-19. He died Tuesday night.

Stephen Schwartz was 78, and had been at the University of Washington for many years; I met him through friends who thought that our quirky personalities would mesh well. They did.

I don't use the term "brilliance" lightly, but Steve was brilliant. He was a modern-day Renaissance man, with bright interest in many subjects. He could have been a classics scholar; he spoke Latin and Greek like an ancient and could quote any ancient text in existence and a lot that are no longer in existence. It was my interest in a librarian at Alexandria, Hypatia, that first brought us together.

He had a lively interest in esoteric mathematics, a discussion we had more than a few times.

His first career, while he was still at Harvard, was in pathology, helping many people with genetic issues before genetics was even really a thing. He was a resident, rising to a full professor in pathology at University of Washington, then he became an adjunct professor in biomedical engineering and medicine.

His most endearing quality was his mentorship of young scientists.

In turns charming and infuriating, Steve was a dear friend. We disagreed as often as we agreed, and the very idea that we will never have another argument leaves me cold. I shall miss him, and I extend my sincere condolences to his family and his other friends.

While Steve was the first person I know to succumb to COVID-19, he won't be the last. He would be gratified if his death is a canary in a coal mine that spurs the nation to action. I only wish such a sacrifice weren't necessary.

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