When a person passes away, usually a notice indicating this, is added on their profiles, or names (papers, etc). For such users on the site, can the notice be implemented too? but having the prior approval from close relatives, of what's going to be added/implemented to the user profile, in order to do things properly.

This comes because a very valuable math.SE user, expert in topology, real analysis, metric spaces, etc., and that every time he helped, he did it kindly, Henno Brandsma, passed away on 6th march, 2022.

And that, I’ve saw some comment s on the topology chat, and then I thought about this notice.

Clarification Regarding some of the comments, I need to clarify. By "memorial notice" I meant, something like a small cross symbol ✞ (like the one that can be seen here) or Remembering (facebook notice) or something like that. Adding more than this on his profile, well that's certainly not what I meant. Sorry for the confusion, English is my second language, and I came across the meaning of -memorial-, and that seemed fit for what I wanted to express.


Before editing the profile page, by the moderator, it would be better if you had the approval of the relatives.

My own suggestion

What I had in mind was something like:

Remembering with appreciation

Henno Brandsma ✞

The remembering part, would be outside the standard format of the profile page, as it is in the facebook format, and a distinct type of letter (say italic); and so also the cross, next to the name, but not within the same format of the name; in this way, also the name on his answers wouldn't had the cross symbol. Now, why the cross?, because that's how it's displayed here https://mensenlinq.nl/overlijdensberichten/henno-hendrik-sikke-brandsma-9275046/, in other words: this should be avowed.

And personally, I've seen also a cross symbol (or pretty close to a cross symbol), next to the name of the person, in academic works, indicating the death of such person.

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    $\begingroup$ Very sad news. Henno also ran the "Ask an XYZ" sites at YorkU circa 1995-2020, for XYZ in {Algebraist, Algebraic Topologist, Analyst, Topologist}. Some of our prolific contributors also contributed there before SE existed. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2022 at 2:54
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    $\begingroup$ Oh dear. In case any of his family knows of his involvement here, and comes by, I'd like to say that his name is well recognized as a prolific and generous contributor here. I'm sorry for your loss. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Sep 9, 2022 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ Somewhat related older discussion: How to commemorate dead users? And here is a link to MathOverflow Meta: Who wrote the year of death in the profile page of the late William Thurston? $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2022 at 5:17
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    $\begingroup$ Rest in peace, Henno sir. Your work will continue to inspire millions of people, even after you’re gone. $\endgroup$
    – wasiu
    Sep 10, 2022 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ Life is very short $\endgroup$
    – wasiu
    Sep 10, 2022 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC Indeed, prolific and generous; and I'll add one more very important, he was kind when helping. $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2022 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ Henno was amazing. That is all. $\endgroup$
    – Randall
    Sep 12, 2022 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ @VeronicaR.M.- I know a lot of "casual christians", who probably wouldn't want us to presume to put a cross on their page (I live in the U.S. It's probably very culturally dependent.), but I love your idea of noting their passing and acknowledging them. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @rschwieb I found this $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2022 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think a cross is definitely inappropriate. MSE should be secular. $\endgroup$
    – user765629
    Sep 13, 2022 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ One convention I have seen on papers is this: the author's name is $\boxed{\text{enclosed in a box}}$ to indicate he is recently deceased. $\endgroup$
    – GEdgar
    Sep 13, 2022 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ Sad to hear, made great contributions to the world. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Sep 15, 2022 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ As the question has been modified to include the use of the cross as a major part of the proposal, I've felt sadly compelled to change my up vote to a down vote. I hope my comment above makes it clear that this is in response to the OP's proposal, not Henno Brandsma's actions here, which were, I repeat, wonderful and generous. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Sep 17, 2022 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Pedro because you do not know their faith and we shouldn't be in the business of investigating what religion a user adheres to and then displaying a religious symbol in accordance. It would be ridiculous and completely inappropriate. $\endgroup$
    – user765629
    Sep 21, 2022 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that religious symbols do not belong on this site and that it would be fraught to try to incorporate them in this way. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2022 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


In the interest of transparency, the moderation team has discussed this issue in the past. For example, in February, it was brought to our attention that Christian Blatter passed on 31 May 2021. After much internal discussion and some discussion with the Community Moderation team, we decided to edit the user profile in order to include years of birth and death on Christian Blatter's profile page.

However, we did not decide on a universal policy of memorializing users who have died, and it is not likely that we ever will. We certainly cannot memorialize every user who dies, and there are issues of notability or significance to the site (for example, a user with 1 reputation who has never posted anything on Math SE likely shouldn't be memorialized, as they have not contributed anything to the community). Other reasons for not having a formal policy are summarized in an answer on the main meta page.

In the case of Henno Brandsma, the votes here seem to indicate that memorialization is appropriate. I have edited his profile.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't like what you did on his profile. That's not what I had in mind. Have not you seen how this is implemented on facebook e.g (facebook.com/people/Meadow-Pollack/100009678407474)? or haven't you seen how is this illustrated on papers? (I can look for it, if you haven't). Also that kinda doesn't match with the subsequent line, which he himself wrote. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @VeronicaR.M. Can you be more explicit about what you want? We are not their close relative/friends, so it makes sense (to me) that we provide minimal information. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2022 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @VeronicaR.M. I can almost guarantee that we are never going to do anything more invasive or radical than what we have already done. It is either this, or the profile is reverted to its previous state. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Sep 13, 2022 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ Sad to hear this. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Sep 15, 2022 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ The profile says "now a cryptographer and security researcher", which is mildly confusing. I'm not sure there's a good solution. Something like prefixing the "Got a PhD..." line with "Original text:" seems unambiguous and fairly minimal. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2022 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JoshuaP.Swanson May be adding "moderator notice:" before 1970-2022? $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2022 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @ArcticChar Sure, that sounds reasonable. Explicitly noting the part that moderators have edited seems wise in general. Whatever a decreased user had written on their profile should not be altered (e.g. changing "now" to "was" would be a bad idea), but some brief, clear, and respectful prefix for notable deceased contributors seems optimal to me. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2022 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Just to note, I thought the edit on Christian Blatter's profile was excellent: spare, factual, tasteful, and not enmeshed in issues of how to memorialize. $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2022 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately his home page -- people.math.ethz.ch/~blatter has been removed; perhaps we need wayback machine! $\endgroup$ Oct 16, 2023 at 5:57

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