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Deaths of Famous People

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...

Ted Kennedy’s Brain Cancer

The recent college admission scandal in which rich parents pay to have their undeserving children accepted at major colleges is not new and has been going on for years. However, a college admissions officer can only look at an applicant's record up to the time he applies to school and really has no idea how successful he will be in the future.

Wilt Chamberlain’s Heart Attack

Wilt Chamberlain was possibly the greatest basketball player and the greatest athlete ever. The 63-year-old Wilt Chamberlain was reported to have died of a heart attack.

Typhoid Mary’s Gall Bladder

Do you know why a healthy person who makes other people sick may be called a "Typhoid Mary"? There really was a Typhoid Mary. She was an apparently healthy person who caused more than ten documented epidemics of typhoid fever, at least three documented deaths, and probably many more cases that could not be confirmed.

Naim Suleymanoglu, the Pocket Hercules

Many experts consider Naim Suleymanoglu to be the greatest weightlifter of all time because he set an incredible 46 world records, won three straight Olympic gold medals and won eight world championships.

Joe Diffie and Many Other Musicians Have Died from COVID-19

I have no data to show that popular musicians are at greater risk of death from COVID-19 than the general population, but we note the headlines marking the passing of many beloved artists just in the past few days.

George Michael: Fatty Liver and Dilated Cardiomyopathy

George Michael was an English singer, songwriter and producer who sold more than 115 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-seling music artists of all time. His solo album "Faith" sold 20 million copies.

Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Heart Attacks

On January 22, 1973, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, died at his ranch in Johnson City, Texas, at age 65 from what was probably his fifth heart attack. He was one of the hardest-working presidents ever and could have lived much longer if he had changed the lifestyle factors that caused his first heart attack at age 47.

Robin Williams and Lewy Body Dementia

On August 11, 2014, we lost one of the greatest comics and actors of our time when Robin Williams took his own life at his home in California. He was 63. At the time of his death, there was a lot of speculation about his recent depression. His wife had not yet released the news that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and later, when his brain was examined, he was found to have suffered from Lewy Body Dementia.

Did Roy Orbison Work Himself to Death?

Roy Orbison was one of America’s top singers and songwriters from 1957 to 1988. He sang his emotional ballads while standing still and wearing black clothes and dark-framed tinted glasses. Between 1960 and 1964, 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top 40. Elvis Presley said that his voice was the greatest and...

Florence Nightingale and Bipolar Disorder

Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing, reformed the British public health system, improved military medicine and dedicated her life to caring for the sick. She earned her reputation by caring for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War. In 1854, she arrived in Turkey with a group of 38 volunteer nurses that she had trained.

Charles Darwin and Panic Disorder

Charles Darwin was one of the most influential scientists of all time. He was the first person to clearly define evolution as selective breeding in which favorable variations in an organism are passed on, and unfavorable variations are dropped, so that the species on earth today have gradually evolved from common ancestors.

Houdini’s Appendix

Harry Houdini was probably the most famous escape artist, magician, and stunt performer of all time. He was short at five feet, five inches, stocky and bow-legged, with a sharp chin, bright blue eyes and curly black hair. He usually appeared in a long coat and tie, and was one of the...

Who Killed George Washington?

On December 12th, 1799, 67-year-old George Washington rode for five hours on horseback on the snowy fields of his farm. The next day, he complained of a severe sore throat and sounded hoarse. On day three, he had chills, could hardly speak and had difficulty breathing. He was unable to swallow a mixture of...

Richard Feynman, Physicist and Humorist

Feynman was one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time. He helped to develop the atomic bomb during World War II and solved the mystery of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. He won the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics for his discoveries in quantum electrodynamics.

Can You Die from Fear? The Baskerville Effect

You better believe that you can be scared to death. The “Felony Murder Rule” allows prosecutors in all 50 states to bring first-degree murder charges against a defendant if someone dies during a crime such as burglary, rape, or kidnapping, even if the defendant did not intend to kill the victim.

John Singleton: High Blood Pressure and Strokes

John Singleton was a film and TV director, screenwriter, and producer who, in 1991 at age 24, became the first African American and the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, for his film Boyz n the Hood.

Don Imus, Prostate Cancer and Emphysema

Don Imus wore an old cowboy hat as the confrontational radio host of “Imus in the Morning,” who shouted tasteless, obscene, sexist, homophobic and even racist remarks about people in the news over more than 100 radio stations to become the "shock jock of radio." In 2009 he was diagnosed with localized prostate cancer and treated with watchful waiting.

Was Hans Asperger a Nazi?

A recently-published medical journal article claims that Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician after whom Asperger’s syndrome is named, was involved in the Nazi euthanasia program to sterilize or kill retarded, emotionally-disturbed and sick children in the 1930's and 40s (Molecular Autism, April 19, 2018). If this is true, he certainly should not continue to have the honor of having the medical syndrome named after him.

The Death of Benjamin Franklin

On April 17, 1790, The Pennsylvania Gazette announced the death of its 84-year-old founder, Benjamin Franklin. More than 20,000 people attended his funeral, about 70 percent of the people who lived in Philadelphia at the time. His coffin was carried by the most important men in the State of Pennsylvania and escorted to Christ Church by a crowd of citizens that included printers and members of the American Philosophical Society, which he had founded.

Charmian Carr and Lewy Body Dementia

Just about everyone has heard her sing "I am Sixteen, Going on Seventeen" as Liesl, the eldest daughter of Captain Georg von Trapp in the film The Sound of Music. The song is about the first love of a 16 year old girl. In real life, she was a college student who had never been in any movie and her first audition for anything got her accepted for the part of Liesl because she was 21 and looked like she was 16.

Horace Fletcher, the Great Masticator

Horace Fletcher was known as "The Great Masticator," who said "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate." More than 100 years ago, in 1913, his book Fletcherism tried to convince people to chew their food to a liquid pulp. He claimed that this would help to control weight and prevent diabetes.

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...

Clyde Lovellette: Size Plus Skill

Clyde Lovellette was the first basketball player to be on teams that won N.C.A.A. and National Basketball Association championships and Olympic gold medals. At 6' 9" and 245 pounds, Lovellette was probably the first of basketball's big men to show exceptional athleticism, speed and strength. On March 9, 2016 at age 86, he died of stomach cancer.

George Gershwin, Incorrectly Diagnosed with Depression

George Gershwin was arguably America’s greatest composer of Broadway musicals and movie film scores, and was always the bon vivant of every party he attended. He wrote the enormously successful “Swanee” at age nineteen. He was a playboy who rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, and was also a natural athlete and a...

Paul English: Why Pneumonia is Such a Common Cause of Death in Seniors

Paul English was Willie Nelson's drummer and best friend for nearly sixty years. In 2014, English told a Rolling Stone writer that Willie Nelson had saved his life, saying, "If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead."

Humphrey Bogart’s Fatal Lifestyle

Humphrey Bogart was one of Hollywood’s most famous actors. In 1942, he starred in Casablanca, which won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Picture, got him nominated for Best Actor and made him the highest paid actor up to that time, with an income of more than $460,000 a year. As a high school student he was expelled from the prestigious Phillips Academy (Andover) for smoking and drinking, and he continued these harmful habits for the rest of his life.

Stephen Hawking, Genius with ALS

One of the world's greatest theoretical physicists died on March 13, 2018 at age 76. In spite of suffering from ALS which left him able to move only a few muscles in the side of his face, he opened new ground on how we view the origin and possible end of the universe. He defined "black holes" as we know them today.

My Favorite Poet, Edgar Allan Poe

Halloween is a good time to think about ghosts and spooky deaths. I think that the greatest poem for Halloween is The Raven, written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1845. It’s my favorite poem. Every sentence is a metaphor to teach us about philosophy, sadness, death, fatalism and life. Every word has a musical tone.

Ilya Metchnikoff: Yogurt, Aging and Auto-Intoxication

This is the story of a world-famous scientist who noticed that the Hunzas of Kashmir and the Georgians in Eastern Europe lived to very old age, that they ate yogurt every day, and that yogurt is loaded with lactobacilli bacteria.