Academia does not really have a reputation for being riddled with violence and sudden unexplained deaths. Yet at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, two young pioneering researchers from the same obscure field of study met with mysterious ends.
Outside of academic circles, Dr. James Taylor and Dr. Bing Liu were relative unknowns. Inside of the scientific community, however, the two had achieved something like rock-star status. And now, within a period of 30 days, both young men are dead at a time when their talents are needed most.
James Taylor, 1979-2020
Let’s first consider the life and work of James Taylor, who passed away on April 2 at the age of 40. Anyone hoping to learn details about the cause of death of this remarkable man will be disappointed; to date, no information has been made available to the public.
“The cause of James’ death is not yet known, and given how overwhelmed the medical profession is in Baltimore, we may never know,” stated the website of Galaxy Project, using the coronavirus as an excuse for not being able to dig deeper into the death of a colleague. “Given how quickly this overtook him it is very unlikely to have been COVID-19.”
Until any additional information is forthcoming with regards to the cause of death, it seems reasonable to ask whether Taylor was involved in any projects or activities that may have made him a potential target of foul play. A cursory look at his Twitter page indicates there were some impassioned discussions just prior to his premature passing that warrant consideration. Before jumping into those discussions, however, a few words about his professional background are necessary.
According to his obituary on the Johns Hopkins University website, Taylor was “a trailblazer in computational biology and genomics research,” who made a significant contribution as a “scientist, teacher, and colleague.”