12 People Who Died on Their Birthdays

Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's called The Birthday Effect: a statistical phenomenon that seems to indicate that the likelihood of one's death increases on or around his or her birthday. While one Swiss study in 2012 put your chances of leaving this world on the same day you entered it as 14 percent higher, there aren't a lot of examples of famous people who have managed to pull it off—with a few exceptions.

1. INGRID BERGMAN

Oscar-winning Casablanca star Ingrid Bergman was born on August 29, 1915, in Stockholm, Sweden. She died 67 years later in 1982 in London after battling breast cancer (though the official cause of death was lymphoma complications that came after a breast cancer operation).

2. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

English dramatist William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), circa 1600
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Shakespeare couldn't have written a more poetic circle of life for himself: While the exact date of his birth has long been a source of debate, the general consensus is that he was born on April 23, 1564 and died on that same date in 1616, at the age of 52. Though the exact cause of his death is unknown—he was said to be in high spirits and "perfect health" just weeks before his passing—an entry in the diary of John Ward, a vicar in the town where Shakespeare was both born and died, claimed that, "Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted."

3. WALTER DIEMER

Walter Diemer, the inventor of bubble gum, went "pop!" on his 93rd birthday on January 8, 1998.

4. BETTY FRIEDAN

 Author Betty Friedan attends a reading of the U.S. Constitution at Cooper Union for the People For the American Way Foundation September 1, 2004 in New York City
Peter Kramer/Getty Images

Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique, was born on February 4, 1921, and died on the same day in 2006. She died of congestive heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C. on her 85th birthday.

5. GEORGE "MACHINE GUN" KELLY

For a lifelong gangster and bootlegger, George "Machine Gun" Kelly got off pretty easy when he died of a heart attack at 59 years old, dying on his birthday, July 17, in 1954. Kelly was incarcerated at Leavenworth at the time.

6. LEVI P. MORTON

Levi Morton
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Levi P. Morton, Benjamin Harrison's vice president, died of pneumonia on his 96th birthday on May 16, 1920—outliving his former boss by nearly 20 years.

7. JOHNNY LONGDEN

Johnny Longden—a Triple Crown-winning jockey who took home wins at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes while riding Count Fleet in 1943—was born on and died on Valentine's Day (in 1907 and 2003, respectively).

8. SIDNEY BECHET

Sidney Bechet Playing Soprano Saxophone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though he was largely overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Sidney Bechet actually found his way into the recording studio a few months ahead of Armstrong. But his alleged temper proved detrimental to his career, and it wasn't until the late 1940s that Bechet's accomplishments were fully recognized. Fortunately, he lived long enough to see it happen; he passed away in Garches, France on May 14, 1959, his 62nd birthday.

9. ELLA BAKER

Though she largely stayed behind the scenes, Ella Baker was a key activist who worked alongside some of the most well-known civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including Martin Luther King, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois, and Thurgood Marshall. She was born in Virginia on December 13, 1903 and passed away on the same day 83 years later, in 1986.

10. KAMEHAMEHA V, KING OF HAWAII


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Kamehameha V, King of Hawaii, died on his 42nd birthday on December 11, 1872.

11. ALLEN DRURY

Novelist Allen Drury—who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1959 political novel Advise and Consent, based partially on the true-life story of the scandal and suicide of Senator Lester Hunt—died on his 80th birthday on September 2, 1998.

12. SWEDE RISBERG


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Swede Risberg, whose name became synonymous with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, died on October 13, 1975, his 81st birthday.

5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System

iStock/TerryJ
iStock/TerryJ

Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on December 10, 1851. Among other things, Dewey was a self-proclaimed reformer, so when working for the Amherst College library in the 1870s, he began to reclassify the facility’s books and how they were organized.

Though the system has gone through plenty of changes over the years, it’s still in wide use all over the world today and forever changed how libraries categorize their books. It has also caused a handful of controversies. In honor of Dewey Decimal Day, we dug into the organizational system—and its creator’s—dark side.

1. Melvil Dewey co-founded the American Library Association, but was forced out because of offensive behavior.

Melvil Dewey was an extremely problematic figure, even in his time. Though he co-founded the American Library Association (ALA), his often-offensive behavior—particularly toward women—didn’t make him a lot of friends.

In Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, author Wayne A. Wiegand described Dewey’s “persistent inability to control himself around women” as his “old nemesis.” In 1905, Dewey and several fellow ALA members took a cruise to Alaska following a successful ALA conference, with the purpose of discussing the organization’s future. Four women who were part of the trip ended up publicly accusing Dewey of sexual harassment—a rarity for the time. Within a year, Dewey was forced to step down from his involvement with the organization he helped to create.

2. Dewey required applicants to his School of Library Economy to submit photos.


A History of the Adirondacks, by Alfred Lee Donaldson (1921) // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1887, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, where 90 percent of his students were female. It was long rumored that in addition to basic information like name, age, and educational background, Dewey required that prospective female students also submit their bust sizes. While this rumor was eventually proven to be false, Dewey did ask women to submit photos, often noting that “You cannot polish a pumpkin.”

3. A Howard University librarian reorganized Dewey's original system because of its racial bias.

Dewey’s personal biases spilled over into his creation, too, and it has taken sincere effort and work to right those wrongs. In the 1930s, Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter helped create a new system to undo the racist way Dewey’s system treated black writers. As Smithsonian reported:

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

In addition to charges of racism, the DDS has also been accused of being homophobic. Early editions of the system classified books on or regarding LGBT issues under Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem, or even as Medical Disorders.

4. Its 'religion' section is skewed heavily toward Christianity.

The DDS section on religion starts at 200, and no other religion besides Christianity is covered until 290. Given that there are more than 4000 religions in the world, saving a mere 10 numbers for their classification doesn’t leave a lot of room for thorough coverage or exploration. Though some changes have been made as new editions of the system have been introduced, the process of restructuring the entire 200s is a project that has yet to be undertaken.

5. Critics of the system would prefer libraries take the Barnes & Noble approach.

The Dewey Decimal System is the most used library classification system, with the Chicago Tribune estimating that more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use it. But it’s far from a perfect system. As such, many libraries are experimenting with other organizational techniques, and many are dropping the DDS altogether.

The main complaint that public libraries have is that the Dewey Decimal System does not make reading exciting, and that there are other ways of categorizing and organizing books that are more like that of general bookstores. By doing away with the numbers (which are hard to remember for general library patrons), some libraries are classifying books simply by category and organizing by author—a system they've begun referring to as "Dewey-lite."

6 Fast Facts About Nelly Sachs

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Today, on the 127th anniversary of her birth, a Google Doodle has been created in memory of writer Nelly Sachs, who died of colon cancer in 1970 at the age of 78. The German-Swedish poet and playwright wrote movingly about the horrors of the Holocaust, which she narrowly escaped by fleeing her home and starting a new life in a foreign land. Here are six things to know about Sachs.

1. She was born in Germany.

Sachs was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891. As the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, she grew up in the city's affluent Tiergarten section. She studied dance and literature as a child, and also started writing romantic poems at age 17.

2. She almost ended up in a concentration camp.

Sachs's father died in 1930, but she and her mother Margarete stayed in Berlin. In 1940, the Gestapo interrogated the two women and tore apart their apartment. They were told they had a week to report to a concentration camp, so they decided to flee the country. Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf, with whom Nelly had corresponded for years, saved their lives by convincing the Swedish royal family to help the two women escape to Sweden.

3. She worked as a translator.

Once Nelly and her mother reached Stockholm, Sachs began learning Swedish and ultimately took up work as a translator. She translated poetry from Swedish to German and vice versa.

4. She was nearly 60 when she published her first book of poetry.

Sachs’s first volume of poetry, In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Habitations of Death), was published in 1947. In this anthology as well as later poems, she used religious imagery to evoke the suffering of her time and the Jewish people.

5. She won the German Book Trade's Peace Prize.

In 1965, Sachs won the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade. She shared a message of forgiveness when she accepted the award from her compatriots. “In spite of all the horrors of the past, I believe in you,” she said.

6. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature on her 75th birthday.

Sachs and Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. According to The Nobel Prize’s website, Sachs was recognized "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength.”

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