Sally Floyd, Who Helped Things Run Smoothly Online, Dies at 69


Dr. Floyd returned to Berkeley in 1984 and received a master’s degree and then, in 1989, a Ph.D. there, both in computer science. With the rapidly growing internet seizing her interest, she joined the Network Research Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1990.

In an interview for James Kurose and Keith Ross’s book “Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach” (2000), Dr. Floyd said it was Dr. Jacobson who first got her interested in computer network algorithms in the 1980s.

“I hadn’t necessarily planned to stay in networking for years,” she said. “But for me, network research is more satisfying than theoretical computer science. I find I am happier in the applied world, where the consequences of my work are more tangible.”

In 1999 she joined the International Computer Science Institute, a research organization affiliated with UC Berkeley, as a research scientist. She retired in 2009 after receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Floyd met Ms. Leita, a reference librarian, in 1983. They married in 2013, soon after the United States Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California. In addition to Ms. Leita and her brother, Dr. Floyd is survived by a sister, Judith Floyd.

Dr. Floyd eschewed the limelight in her field.

“In the internet community, where arguments were often loud and long, Sally was the gentlest of souls,” said Deborah Estrin, a computer science professor at Cornell Tech in Manhattan. “Her response to comments that she disagreed with strongly was often a simple ‘huh,’ gently said and left hanging in the air.”

Dr. Floyd was also known for showing interest in the work of graduate students, whom she often met at technical conferences.

“Perhaps the most enduring scene is rounding some corner in a random hotel somewhere in the world and seeing Sally sitting on the floor chatting with a graduate student she’d met a few minutes beforehand about the student’s work,” Mark Allman, a longtime colleague, wrote in a recent online post. “That scene played out countless times.”

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