Much has been made in recent days of the death of celebrities in 2016. The year seems to be a particularly brutal one in pop culture. In light of what seems to be 24/7 coverage of celebrities and the lives they lead, I did a quick search of other celebrity deaths - those who have left a unique mark in the field of science and medicine.
In January, Marvin Minsky died. He co-founded the artificial intelligence lab at MIT in 1957. 1957. Ponder that. Not surprisingly, he was friends with science fiction legendary writer Isaac Asimov. I was interested to read his wife is a pediatrician. She, too, was forging a new frontier - women who practiced medicine were not the norm in that day's society.
The world runs on email. The man who invented email and the '@' used to separate our names from our machines died in 2016. His name is Ray Tomlinson. Thanks to his forward thinking in technology, our lives have been made easier - keeping in touch with loved ones and business associates, sending documents and other paperwork, sending photos, etc. He is a member of the Internet Hall of Fame. Yeah. It's a thing.
In the world of space exploration, besides John Glenn, there is Edgar Mitchell, the sixth person to walk on the moon, died in February. You may remember his fellow moonwalker, Alan Shepard for golfing on the moon but their Apollo 14 mission success was important after the drama of Apollo 13. He was colorful in his interests of ESP experiments and paranormal phenomena.
Vera Rubin was the only graduate in astronomy from Vassar in 1948. She went on to earn a PhD from Georgetown University and her work confirmed the existence of dark matter in the universe. She died Sunday, Christmas Day. Her death, after her game changing work, should earn her as much recognition as any celebrity death. It won't, of course, but there has been some acknowledgement on Twitter.
Unlike most 'climate scientists' who spend their career behind a desk, Gordon Hamilton pursued his scientific theories in the field. He died in October on a scientific expedition in Antarctica. I don't agree with his climate change alarmism but he was well-respected in his community for the personal risks he took in pursuit of data gathering.
Dale Schenk decided to go into science instead of pursuing his love of the piano after witnessing the ravages of Alzheimer's disease on his grandmother and others. He and his team made great strides towards a vaccine for the disease - they have been successful with mice but not in humans as of yet. He died in October at the age of 59.
Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich technique that saves choking victims, died in December. A thoracic surgeon, his history is checkered with friction within the medical community. He was a skilled self-promoter and once tried to take credit for a technique for saving a damaged esophagus, only to later admit a Romanian surgeon had been using the technique for many years. He was 96 years old.
I am sure there are many others. There are also teachers, community activists, athletes, as well as other professionals who shape our lives and make the world a better place. Most importantly, our military service men and women are never properly acknowledged, if you ask me. As free people, we can never thank them enough for their service in our names.
Celebrities on screen and in music touch our lives in an emotional way. They are a part of the touchstones in life and that is important to acknowledge. I just wish real life, every day heroes garnered the same attention.