As you may know, Ron Graham passed away on July 6, 2020.

In the past, when a famous mathematician passes away, many community members feel that they should be remembered on MathOverflow in some way or another. For obvious reasons, such memorials need to be carefully designed to honor the life and work of the deceased as well as the purpose of MathOverflow. Often, individuals post their own memorials, which are sometimes well received by the community and sometimes not. There has never been a formal discussion of this topic. I thereby propose to open this discussion about what kind of memorial (if any) should the MathOverflow community do when a high-profile mathematician passes away. Also, closer to hand, what the community could do right now to remember Ron Graham and to commemorate his outstanding contributions to mathematics.

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    $\begingroup$ I thought the tribute to Conway was fitting and appropriate. Put the mathematics in MathOverflow proper, and the nonmathematics (personal anecdotes) in meta, with links between them. Although everybody should be honored in some way, I think recognizing an outstanding contributor such as Ron Graham this way can fall under the policy exceptions category for meta. Gerhard "His Numerous Accomplishments Were Many" Paseman, 2020.07.07. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Jul 8 at 4:05
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    $\begingroup$ Two anecdotes. 1. Ron Graham is (I believe) the only person to give [the Gibbs Lecture][1] at the AMS annual meeting twice. The first time was at the New Orleans meeting in January, 2001. Then in 2015 the scheduled speaker was unable to give his talk, and rather than see the lecture cancelled, Graham stepped in at extremely short notice to give a talk. [1]: ams.org/meetings/lectures/meet-gibbs-lect $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jul 8 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ 2. At the AMS annual meeting in Atlanta in 1978, Graham was chairing a session in one room, during which he was scheduled to give a talk in the room next door. So he interrupted his talk to go introduce the next speaker in the other session, meanwhile leaving a problem on the overhead projector for people to work on while he was away. When he came back, he picked up where he had left off in his lecture. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jul 8 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ (1/2) I think that (if I'm right the blog is not active), a possibility is that a thread of Meta is created with the title In memoriam. I am not a professional mathematician, and I assume that my views/ideas maybe aren't acceptable for the community. This thread while it is legitimated by the copyright could include the material/sources in discussion about, mainly, the more important work of a mathematician in a concise and inspiring way (to young PhD students and other). Then the best/recent answers are added to the Newsletter of MathOverflow if it is possible (is a periodic publication). $\endgroup$ – user142929 Jul 8 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ (2/2) I think that there is more possibilities, I don't know if it is legitimate that this site MathOverflow (let's a member of the moderator team) create a channel in some platform of videos. Then a group of mathematicians that want to edit a video lecture notes inspired in the work of a mathematician that passed away, again if the sources and these activities are legitimate submit a message to the moderators with the goal to publish the video on the official channel of the moderators and publish the video in a suitable room In memoriam of the chat (if it is legitimate in this MathOverflow) $\endgroup$ – user142929 Jul 8 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ Just as a clarification of my last comment is that I believe that one can to create an official channel (if it is legitimate) in some videos platform in which one can to avoid unrelated comments (the option disable comments), and after add as an embedded video the file in the suitable room In memoriam where the comments can be moderated. Of course, feel free to remove my comments if aren't suitable in this thread of Meta MathOverflow. These and previous are just my ideas that I evoke, I add this last phrase as disclaimer since I don't know what can be a legitimate activity about this concern $\endgroup$ – user142929 Jul 8 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ The question to discuss how to deal with memorials is good but doesn't match the title... I'd feel uncomfortable to discuss it here. $\endgroup$ – YCor Jul 8 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ An MJD story: blog.plover.com/math/graham.html . $\endgroup$ – LSpice Jul 8 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ MO post (as, I think, suggested by @GerhardPaseman): mathoverflow.net/q/365170 . $\endgroup$ – LSpice Jul 8 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ Memorials about deceased mathematicians is not a subject of or about mathematics. $\endgroup$ – dohmatob Jul 9 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ Lipton and Regan's blogpost rjlipton.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/ron-graham-1935-2020 has some personal memories of Ron Graham $\endgroup$ – kodlu Jul 10 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ I think the general question asked here should better be separated from the report of the passing away of a particular person. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Jul 11 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest creating a specific tag for these posts, e.g. memorial $\endgroup$ – polfosol Jul 12 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @polfosol: A tag is a good idea. Over on Science Fiction & Fantasy meta SE, we call it scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/in-memoriam . "obituary" is another name we could use for the tag. $\endgroup$ – Zsbán Ambrus Jul 17 at 19:10

I am sorry to hear about Ron Graham. Best wishes to his friends and family.

The bulk of this answer will address the general question about if or how MO should memorialize mathematicians when they pass away. I believe that a community wiki question on MO about a person's mathematical achievements and/or legacy is, generally speaking, an appropriate and and actively positive use of the forum. My arguments, in no particular order:

Consistent with MO mission

Reviewing a successful mathematician's contributions is by definition research-focused, and it often gives an interesting glimpse into connections between the different ideas that the person worked on. The questions and answers should stay focused on mathematics as much as possible, but this hasn't been much of a problem in past examples.

MO is the best forum for this

It is normal for articles or blog posts to be published when a prominent mathematician passes away, and these are certainly valuable, but MO posts often attract a good diversity of perspectives on a body of work that is often not well replicated elsewhere. And MO answers are more likely than some other sources to get the mathematics right since there is no pressure to translate technical ideas into language suitable for a general audience. Sometimes mainstream press even links to these MO questions for this reason.

MO tributes stand a reasonable good of being tasteful

MO has policies against gossip, innuendo, rumors, and personal remarks, and these policies provide some assurance that memorial posts will not go astray. MO should of course heed the wishes of surviving friends and family one way or the other, but a priori I don't think that it is disrespectful or exploitative to acknowledge and celebrate someone's contributions on the internet. Caution should be exercised in cases where the mathematician had a rocky or controversial relationship with the mathematical community, but I think the risk is low in most cases.

The risks are low

So far as I am aware there is no explicit rule against these sorts of questions currently, so if there were a high risk that they would be abusive or disrespectful (or perceived as such) then we would probably know about it by now.

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