Darryl Wu Remembrance

Darryl Wu (1996-2016)

A short but brilliant life of 20 years worth remembering.

Darryl Wu in London 2016

Darryl Wu in London 2016

Darryl Wu passed away peacefully of natural causes while attending Cornell University as a rising junior on August 30, 2016. Darryl was born in Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Washington on Oct. 5, 1996.

Darryl attended the gifted program at Bellevue’s Stevenson Elementary school from first to fifth grade. At the age of 10 he scored a perfect 800 in the math SAT, and then started at Seattle’s Lakeside school as an inquisitive and gentle sixth grader.

Mathcounts is a national math competition for middle schoolers, and Darryl became the first sixth grader in history to win the national championship. This earned him a trip to the White House and an appearance on national television—but he did not enjoy the spotlight.

Among other honors, Darryl was the first person from Washington State to earn a perfect score in the American Region Math League (ARML) tournament, and he was a silver medalist in the 2013 Romanian Master of Mathematics competition.

Darryl’s many interests included cello, piano, music composition and online gaming, but it was his passion for linguistics that gained him additional recognition among his young peers: Darryl placed first in the nation the three times he competed in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO). Then, representing the USA at the International Linguistics Olympiads, he was a silver medalist in 2012 and gold medalist in 2014. Dragomir Radev, professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan, who coached America’s computational linguistics team, estimated that the nation produces a mathematician of Darryl’s potential about five times a decade.

Darryl wrote software in the summer of 2014, then enrolled in honors Chemistry, with a minor in Linguistics, at Cornell University. After his sophomore year, in 2016, he worked the summer in the Cornell chemistry lab of Professor Peter Wolczanski, who said various faculty members were hoping that Darryl would choose their respective specialties. That summer Darryl also expressed interest in learning to drive and cook, as he matured and his outlook broadened. He moved into his own apartment, where he died peacefully in bed on August 30, 2016. Investigators found no evidence of foul play, drugs, or depression. Darryl died of natural causes, at an unnatural age. “Maybe God needed help on a math problem,” a mathematician wrote.

A permanent memorial prize named for Darryl was established at the Cornell Chemistry department.

Summary of recognition: