Re: [R] History of R

From: John Fox <>
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2008 20:36:12 -0500

Dear Kathy,

As Achim has mentioned, I've been doing interviews with members of the R Core team and with some other people central to the R Project. Although I haven't entirely organized and finished reflecting on this material, the following factors come immediately to mind:

(1) Doug has already mentioned the personal and technical talents of the original developers, and their generosity in opening up development to a Core group and in making R open source. To that I would add the collective talents of the Core group as a whole.

(2) R implements the S language, which already was in wide use, and which has many attractive features (each of use, etc.).

(3) The R package system and the establishment of CRAN allowed literally hundreds of developers to contribute to the broader R Project. More generally, the Core group worked to integrate users into the R Project, e.g., through R News, the r-help list (though naive users aren't always treated gently there), and the useR conferences.


John Fox, Professor
Department of Sociology
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:r-help-bounces_at_r-
>] On Behalf Of Kathy Gerber
> Sent: February-15-08 2:53 PM
> To:
> Subject: [R] History of R
> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
> whom I am most familiar. He suggested also that I put my questions to
> the list for additional responses. Next month I'll be giving a talk on
> R as an example of high quality open source software. I think there is
> much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at
> least
> as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many
> open
> source fads.
> The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
> project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for
> example,
> Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
> I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
> thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
> Thanks.
> Kathy Gerber
> University of Virginia
> ITC - Research Computing Support
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