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Van Cliburn, Cold War Hero

In 1958, at the height of the "Cold War", the Soviet Union gained an incredible coup by successfully launching Sputnik 1, the first orbiting satellite. At that time, almost all of the world’s premier pianists came from the Soviet Union, so they sponsored the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow to...

Franz Kafka and Tuberculosis

Franz Kafka was one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, even though little of his work was published before his death at the young age of 40. He had tuberculosis in his esophagus, which prevented food from reaching his stomach, so he starved to death. He finished none of his...

Leonard Nimoy, COPD and Smoking

Leonard Nimoy gave up smoking two packs of cigarettes a day more than 30 years ago, but he still smothered to death this week from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). He won three Emmy awards for starring in "Star Trek" ((1966-1969) as Spock, a 23rd-century space voyager from the planet Vulcan. He was...

Julian Schwinger and Pancreatic Cancer

Julian Seymour Schwinger (February 12, 1918 – July 16, 1994) was one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century. He shared a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics with another genius, Richard Feynman, for his re-normalization theory of quantum electrodynamics. Today, he is far less famous than Feynman, even though he had...

Gerty Cori’s Nobel Prize

Gerty Cori was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 1947, for the discovery of how muscles covert sugar to lactic acid for energy during exercise and how the lactic acid then travels in the bloodstream to the liver where it is converted back to sugar for...

Andre the Giant and Acromegaly

Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler who at 7' 4" and 520 pounds, won the World Wrestling Federation individual championship and World Tag Team Championship. He was also an actor in several Hollywood films. His huge size was caused by a pituitary gland brain tumor that produced huge amounts of human growth hormone.

Ignaz Semmelweis, Antiseptic Pioneer

One of the saddest stories of a prophet who was treated as a quack by his contemporaries is that of Ignaz Semmelweis. In 1847, at age 29, he was the chief obstetrician in charge of two maternity clinics in a hospital in Vienna. The first clinic was at a medical school...

Itzhak Perlman and Polio

Itzhak Perlman is arguably the most brilliant and beloved violinist of the 20th century and so far in the 21st. He is also so knowledgeable and coordinated that he has conducted many major orchestras. This is incredible because both of his legs are paralyzed from an attack of polio contracted at age...

Marion Barry, Washington’s ‘Mayor for Life’, Dead at 78

As four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry helped to create a city that helped the poor and disadvantaged. His programs created jobs for people out of work (many got their first jobs through his programs); allocated city contracts specifically for minorities (in 1980, 35 percent of city contracts were awarded to minority-owned firms);...

Tom Magliozzi, Host of “Car Talk”

Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 on November 3, 2014 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. This horrible dementia prevents you from remembering almost anything. For 35 years he was the star of the nationally-syndicated radio show "Car Talk" with his brother Ray, hosting calls from would-be mechanics, puzzled car owners and entertained...

Raoul Dufy’s Rheumatoid Arthritis

Raoul Dufy, one of the most popular painters of the early 20th century, produced more than 6000 paintings that featured themes of happiness, luxury and pleasure. He was one of the first people with rheumatoid arthritis to be treated with cortisone and died from its side effects less than three years after he started...

Tom Hanks, Diabetes and YoYo Dieting

Tom Hanks' films have grossed more than $4.2 billion in the United States and Canada, and more than $8.4 billion worldwide. He is the highest grossing actor of all-time with an average of $107 million per film. Seventeen of his films have grossed more than $100 million. Hanks has...

Grace Kelly, Death of a Princess

Grace Kelly was a famous Hollywood actress who became Princess Grace of Monaco and died at age 54 after driving a car off a hilly Monaco road. Her father was Jack Kelly, a wealthy Philadelphia construction contractor who was also a three-time Olympic gold medal winner in rowing. Her brother was also...

Joan Rivers: No Procedure is Risk-Free

UPDATE - 11/13/14 The New York Department of Health and Human Services has now determined that Joan Rivers died from brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. The report states that her medical records contain discrepancies regarding the dose of propofol she was given before surgery, and that the clinic failed "to ensure that patient...

Why Did Ultimate Warrior Die at 54?

The Ultimate Warrior, one of the most famous professional wrestlers of all time, died of a heart attack at the very young age of 54 on April 8, 2014, just days after he was inducted into the World Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was walking to his car with his wife outside a...

Sinead O’Connor’s Fibromyalgia

Sinead O'Connor is an Irish singer and songwriter who became famous in the late 1980s and has been a strong moralist, speaking out against war and against the abuse of women and children. Her career has been interrupted by bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. In the spring of 2012, she appeared on her way back...

Brian Piccolo and Testicular Cancer

In 1969, Brian Piccolo was a 26-year-old fullback for the Chicago Bears in the National Football League when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He died from that disease in 1970. He was immortalized in "Brian's Song", the movie of his life that was first released in 1971 and remade in...

Famous Stents: Bill Clinton and George Bush

Bill Clinton: In 2004, former President Clinton had a quadruple bypass operation that did not require stents and did not increase risk for clotting. In February, 2010, he had chest pain and tests showed that his heart muscle was not getting the blood it needed, so doctors opened up the arteries leading to...

Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre, Dead at 54

One of baseball's best batters ever, Tony Gwynn, died of cancer of his salivary glands on June 16, 2014. The New York Times called Gwynn "the best pure hitter of his generation". During 20 seasons for the San Diego Padres, he had an incredible .338 career batting average, hit above .300 for 19 consecutive...

Bruce Lee: Fists of Fury

Bruce Lee was the most influential martial artist of the 20th century. In the 1970's, his fame as a movie star and martial arts instructor sparked North American interest in Asian martial arts. At age 32, he died suddenly from massive swelling of his brain, most likely caused by a rare reaction to aspirin....

Natasha Richardson’s Needless Death

Natasha Richardson was a British stage and screen actress who died at the young age of 45 from an epidural brain hemorrhage caused by a skiing accident. From this tragedy you can learn how to recognize the signs of severe head injury even when the person insists that they do not need any...

Rosalind Franklin, Cheated Out of a Nobel Prize

Rosalind Franklin should have won the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA. She died at the very young age of 37 of ovarian cancer in 1958, probably from exposure to the radiation that helped her make this incredible discovery. In 1962, Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins jointly won...

Jean Harlow, the Blonde Bombshell

Jean Harlow was voted one of the greatest actresses of the 1930s Golden Age by the American Film Institute and was the first movie actress to be on the cover of Life Magazine, even though she was a film actress for only 10 years and appeared in only 41 movies. She died...

Hal Connolly, from Disabled Child to Olympic Gold

Harold Connolly was born with only one functioning arm. Because of that he had to fight to be accepted, so he worked harder than everyone else. He became such a fierce competitor in the hammer throw that he won a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. He was the first...

Toshiko D’Elia, Marathon Champion, Dies at 84

Toshiko D’Elia, who broke many age-group world marathon records for women over 50, died of brain cancer on February 19, 2014. She was the first woman over age 50 to run a marathon in under three hours, in 2:57:25 (August, 1980) and the first woman over age 65 to run under...

Al Capone: Crime Does Not Pay

The king of Chicago prostitution lost both his mind and his life to diseases caused by a lifetime of promiscuous sex. He was probably America's most famous killer, gangster, bootlegger, criminal and racketeer, but the United States government could convict him only for tax evasion and he was sentenced to only 11 years in prison.

Srinivasa Ramanujan, Math Prodigy

Perhaps the most amazing mathematician of all time was Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan (1887-1920). He worked out incredibly complicated problems and expanded our knowledge of elliptic functions, continued fractions and infinite series. During his 32 years of life, he wrote about nearly 4000 math problems and almost all of his solutions have proven to be...

Kim Kardashian’s Psoriasis

Kimberly Noel Kardashian, one of the most visible women in the United States today, suffers from psoriasis, a skin disease that causes raised red patches with silvery scales to form on her body. Three percent of North Americans or more than eight million people have this hereditary condition. Kardashian is a fashion...

Rene Laennec, Founder of Modern Pulmonology

Which doctor do you consult when you are dying of a disease in which you are the world’s leading expert on the treatment of that disease? René-Thééophile-Hyacinthe Laennec was born in France in 1781 and died at age 45. He was a famous French physician who invented the stethoscope and was the father of our...

Dick Cheney: Sometimes Doctors Lie

This week former U.S Vice President Dick Cheney and his doctor came out with a new book in which they describe his five heart attacks and his heart transplant at age 71. They should tell you how the American public was kept from knowing just how sick he was. During the primaries before the...