Another year is passing and, as in years past, we pause to recall some of the important people who passed away this year. Numerous World War II heroes died as the greatest generation fades into a glorious Technicolor sunset. We will not see their like again. All sorts of celebrities, criminals, titans, sports stars, and pioneers also passed on as the great parade of human life continues. Here are some of the scientists, space pioneers, artists, writers, and leaders who deserve a last shout out before 2014 begins with its possibilities, anxieties, and hopes.
Noted animator Frederick Back died on December 24, 2013. He was known for his profoundly moving short animations.
Dr. Janet Rowley demonstrated that chromosomal translocation was the underlying cause for leukemia (and other cancers). By establishing the genetic underpinnings of many cancers, she vastly furthered cancer research and treatment. ABC news reported “She is a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientific honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.” She was still publishing papers and researching at the University of Chicago (where she graduated from high school, college, and Medical School and spent most of her professional life) right up until her death on December 17, 2013.
Peter O’Toole one of the foremost thespians of our era died on December 14, 2013. The quality of his movies varied wildly, but the quality of his acting was always the very highest. I remember watching him on a late night chat show and being impressed by his vivacity and intelligence. He finished the segment by reminding the audience that this isn’t a dress rehearsal (a sentiment which bears repeating).
Harry Rosenthal an AP reporter who “covered America’s golden age of space exploration” died on Dec. 12, 2013. I hope a new reporter appears on the scene to cover a newer and more glorious era of space exploration (but a lot needs to go right for that to happen).
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died on December 5, 2013. Too often, brutal civil wars have swept across African nations after independence. It did not happen in South Africa thanks to largely to Nelson Mandela who reached out to his former oppressors in order to build a unified society.
Fred F. Scherer a painter and sculptor responsible for crafting some of the amazing wildlife dioramas for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, died Nov. 25, 2013.
Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize laureate and author of harrowing science fiction dystopias (some of which were based on her childhood in colonial Africa) died on November 17, 2013.
Legendary rock-and-roll musician Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013.
Legendary Irish punk/rock/traditional musician Philip Chevron died on October 8, 2013.
Harold Melvin Agnew, an American physicist and nuclear pioneer died on September 29, 2013. He was best known for working on the first nuclear reactor (Chicago pile 1) taking part on the Hiroshima bombing mission as scientific observer, and (eventually) acting as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Roger Ebert died on April 4, 2013. Ebert was a screen writer, an essayist, and above all a movie critic. I did not always agree with his reviews, but I usually liked reading them more than I enjoyed watching the films.