[EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you to John Breslin for authoring this guest post remembering our friend and colleague, George Thomas.]
When writing about a person’s significant achievements, it would be so much better if the person themselves could hear the good things you were saying about them. Unfortunately, the person I am writing about, George Thomas, passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. However, I think it is important to note the huge impact that George had on Government Linked Data, Linked Data in general, and on his friends and colleagues in the Semantic Web space. If there’s one name that Government Linked Data ‘goes with’, it would be George Thomas.
Although I only physically met George a handful of times, I would count him as one of those who influenced me the most – through his visionary ideas, his practical nature, his inspiring talks at conferences like SemTechBiz, and his willingness to build bridges between people, communities, and of course data.
For those who may not have met him, George worked in the US Government for the past 12 years – most recently as an enterprise architect in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – and previously he held Chief Architect/CTO roles in other agencies and various private companies.
I first came across George when he was Chief Architect at the CIO’s office in the US General Services Administration. He had given a presentation about how Semantic Web technologies similar to SIOC could potentially be used to “track the dollar instead of the person” on Recovery.gov. Later on, DERI’s Owen Sacco and I collaborated with George on a system to create and enforce fine-grained access control policies (using PPO/PPM) for the HHS’s Government Linked Data on IT investments and assets stored in multiple sources. (George also sung DERI’s praises in a blog post on Data.gov – “Linked Data Goes With DERI” – echoed in this article’s title.)