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Deaths of Famous People

W. Barry Wood, Scholar-Athlete

Barry Wood won 10 varsity letters from 1929 to 1931 as one of Harvard’s greatest athletes ever, and was the last Harvard player to be named All-American in football at the time when Harvard football teams played the University of Texas, University of Michigan and some of the other best teams in the country.

Joseph Melnick, Vaccine Pioneer

Many of you think that Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin stopped the polio epidemics with their killed polio Salk vaccine or the live and weakened Sabin polio vaccines. However, you don’t see polio anymore primarily because of Joseph Melnick, who supervised the field trials of the vaccines and made sure that most of the entire American population was vaccinated against polio.

Chadwick Boseman, The Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman was a movie actor who brilliantly portrayed baseball player Jackie Robinson (2013), singer James Brown (2014), and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (2017). In 2016, at age 40, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and never told the public about his serious diagnosis.

Fuller Albright and Parkinson’s Disease

Fuller Albright discovered more new diseases and their causes than any other person in the history of medicine. He founded modern endocrinology, the study of how glands work in your body. In his lifetime, he mentored most of the chairmen of the departments of endocrinology in North American medical schools. He was one of...

Isaac Asimov, Science Fiction Giant

Isaac Asimov probably had more of his writings published than any other person in history with more than 500 books, mostly science fiction and popular science. As a child, he was short, fat and uncoordinated and never learned to swim or ride a bike. As an adult, he spent an incredible amount of time...

Sumner Redstone’s Dementia

Sumner Redstone was a media magnate worth about five billion dollars, through his innovations and investments in radio, television, and movies. In 2016, at age 92, he resigned from being the executive chairman of both CBS and Viacom because of a court-ordered examination by a geriatric psychiatrist.

Robert Oppenheimer, Father of the Atomic Bomb

Seventy-five years ago, on August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 129,000 and 226,000 mostly civilians, to remain today the only uses of nuclear weapons in war. Physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the scientific director of the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb.

Cass Elliot: Young Death from Morbid Obesity

Cass Elliot was “Mama Cass”, the close-to-300 pound contralto lead singer of The Mamas and Papas, a dominant folk rock vocal group in the late 1960s. They sold more than 40 million records, with six of their albums making it to the Billboard top ten.

Regis Philbin’s Lifestyle Changes

Regis Philbin held the Guinness Book of World Records title for the most time spent in front of a television camera -- tallied at 16,343 hours when he retired at age 80 in 2011. He hosted "Live! with Kathie Lee" (which later became "Live! with Regis and Kelly"), "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," "Million Dollar Password," the first season of "America's Got Talent, and many others.

Einstein’s Brilliant Life and Needless Death

Albert Einstein is arguably the most famous and brilliant physicist of all time. In 1933, when he was 54, he held the prestigious title of tenured professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences.

Charlie Daniels and Hemorrhagic Strokes

We have lost another country music legend -- Charlie Daniels died on July 6, 2020, at age 83.  He was a singer, songwriter and fiddler who was most famous for writing and performing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He was elected to the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Gordie Howe, the Toughest Athlete

National Hockey League All-Star Gordie Howe was arguably the best hockey player ever because he was stronger, faster and more pugnacious than everyone else. He played professional hockey for fifty years.

Dick Buerkle and Multiple Systems Atrophy

Dick Buerkle ran 3:54.93 to break the world record in the men's indoor mile in 1978, and earned places on the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams. From age 12 onward, he had suffered considerable taunting from his classmates because he lost all the hair on his head.

Vera Lynn, the Forces’ Sweetheart

If you were alive during World War II, you probably remember Vera Lynn as the "Forces' Sweetheart" of Great Britain’s resistance to Nazi Germany -- but you don't have to be that old to recognize her songs.

Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers

Harold Reid was the bass singer of the Statler Brothers, one of the most successful vocal harmony groups in the history of country music. They moved gospel harmonies into popular country music.

Zachary Taylor’s Salmonella

Zachary Taylor became the 12th president of the United States after being a national hero as the major general who led the United States to victory in the Mexican–American War in 1848.. He ran on the platform to preserve the union in its battles over slavery. He died after only sixteen months in office.

Christopher Reeve: Heart Failure from Muscle Loss

Christopher Reeve was a BAFTA-award-winning movie actor best known as the 6'4" athletic Superman and his bumbling counterpart, Clark Kent.

Dr. Robert Atkins, King of Low-Carb Diets

Robert Atkins was a cardiologist who wrote The Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution books, promoting his weight-loss program that severely restricts carbohydrates and recommends fats and protein as the primary sources of calories.

Phyllis George and Polycythemia Rubra Vera

Phyllis George was named “Miss Texas” at age 21 in 1970, quickly followed by winning "Miss America." At age 25, She became famous as the most prominent woman is sports broadcasting, co-hosting the National Football league’s weekly pregame show with Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Jimmy the Greek.

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.

Eugene O’Neill’s Guilt and Death

When you were in school, you may have read some of Eugene O’Neill’s more than 50 plays, such as Long Day's Journey into Night, Desire Under the Elms, or A Moon for the Misbegotten. He was the only American playwright to ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

President Harrison Didn’t Die from Not Wearing a Hat

William Henry Harrison was a U.S. military officer and politician who died of pneumonia 31 days into his term, to become the first president to die in office. He was 68 years and 23 days old, and at that time, the average life expectancy for a man was only 38 years.

Comparing the COVID-19 Pandemic to the 1918-1920 Flu Pandemic

It appears that the current COVID-19 pandemic will not be anywhere near as harmful as the swine flu influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 that started near the end of World War I, infected 500 million people, and killed about 39 million people, which was 2.3 percent of the world’s population of 1.7 billion people at that time.

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.

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.

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.

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

Kenny Rogers recorded 65 albums, sold more than 165 million records, was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and sang more than 120 hit singles that were the top recordings in the country for a total of more than 200 weeks.

Bobbie Battista and Cervical Cancer

Bobbie Battista was one of the original CNN cable news anchors, starting in 1981 and continuing to broadcast there for 20 years. She died at the very young age of 67 after a four-year battle with cervical cancer.

Eva Szekely: Holocaust Survivor to Olympic Champion

Eva Szekely was brought up in Nazi-occupied Hungary in the 1930s and 1940s. During her swimming career from 1940 to 1958, she broke ten world swimming records and five Olympic swimming records, won 44 national titles, Olympic gold in world record time in the 200m breaststroke in 1952 and a silver in the same event at Melbourne in 1956.

Major Taylor, First African-American World Champion

At the turn of the 20th century, cyclist Major Taylor became the first African-American sports hero. That was 10 years before Jackie Robinson was even born and 50 years before he broke the color barrier in major-league baseball.