Free software pioneer Richard Stallman is battling cancer

A changed RMS appeared at the GNU 40th anniversary event in Switzerland

Richard Stallman has revealed he is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer of the white blood cells, but says that his prognosis is good.

The 70-year-old Stallman appeared at the GNU Project's 40th anniversary celebration in Switzerland on Wednesday a very changed figure. The GNU project is currently celebrating four decades of work on Free Software, as we wrote last week, and Stallman appeared on stage to make the closing speech in Biel/Bienne. His characteristic long hair is gone, as is his beard.

A nearly hairless Stallman pulls down his mask briefly to reveal that his beard has gone, too.

A nearly hairless Stallman pulls down his mask briefly to reveal that his beard has gone, too

In appropriate GNU style, the video is a WebP file on the site, rather than being hosted on a commercial streaming service, and at any rate, the sound quality makes it difficult to follow. We suggest downloading the file and playing it locally – VLC supports the format well – but we struggled to discern his words even so. Stallman appeared seated, and was wearing an antiviral face mask, which he urged the audience to do as well. The result is that his voice was muffled, causing members of the audience to call out that they could not hear him.

He said that he is suffering from follicular lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This a blood cancer, which causes B lymphocytes to form clumps in the lymphatic system.

Although a non-Hodgkin lymphoma was also the cause of death of the late Paul Allen, the more charismatic of Microsoft's co-founders, there are multiple types of NHL disease and Stallman has one of the slower-developing types. He said that his prognosis was good and that he hopes to be around and active in GNU for years to come.

Although Stallman is a controversial and polarizing figure, he is widely acknowledged as a pioneer. Without his efforts to formalize and promote Free Software, there would be no Open Source world today. There have been multiple expressions of concern across the internet, and many people wishing him the best.

The Reg FOSS Desk hopes he enjoys a full recovery. ®

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