10 Non–Rock Stars Who Died at the Tragically Young Age of 27

Image credit: 

© Laurence Baker/Corbis

On Saturday, Amy Winehouse passed away and became the latest member of Club 27—an exclusive club you don’t want to be in. Club 27 is headlined by musicians Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Brian Jones, who all died of a drug overdose, suicide, or accident at that young age. But the musically inclined aren't the only ones who die at 27. Here are 10 other people who didn’t live to see 28.

1. Pope John XII. One of the youngest Popes ever, Pope John XII sat on the papal chair from 955-964. He was a rather unethical Pope whose crimes against the chair allegedly included adultery, gambling and even murder. He died under suspicious circumstances, but the rumor is that he was “stricken by paralysis in the act of adultery” at the young age of 27.

2. Pat Tillman. The NFL player, who turned down a $3.6 million contract to enlist in the U.S. Army after 9/11, was just 27 when he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

3. Henry Moseley was an English physicist with a promising future ahead of him; he had already identified gaps in the periodic table and was measuring the X-ray spectra of chemical elements. And then World War I hit, so Moseley turned down a job at Oxford to enlist in the Royal Engineers of the British Army. He had served as a technical officer in communications for just four months when he was shot in the head by a sniper on August 10, 1915. “In view of what he might still have accomplished," Isaac Asimov once wrote, "his death might well have been the most costly single death of the War to mankind generally,”

4. Joseph Merrick. The unfortunate fellow you probably know better as The Elephant Man died in 1890, following a lifetime of being exhibited, prodded and poked at. To this day, experts are still not sure what caused Merrick’s deformities, though they think his ailment did contribute to his death at the age of 27. His doctor, Frederick Treves, believed that Merrick had attempted to sleep horizontally in bed like most people do, and as a result, asphyxiated due to the weight of his head.

5. American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988. It’s said that when Andy Warhol died the previous year, Basquiat was so distressed that his attempts at staying sober took a nosedive. He died in his studio at the age of 27.

6. French mathematician François Proth died of unknown causes in 1879. Though he was young, the self-taught Proth had already developed four theorems and the Proth number.

7. Alfonso XII. Alfonso’s mother, Isabella II of Spain, abdicated in his favor in 1870, making him King of Spain at the age of 13. That gave him nearly 15 years of ruling before he died of tuberculosis in 1885. His youngest child, born seven months after his death, was the grandfather of Juan Carlos I, the current King of Spain.

8. Alain-Fournier was the author of Le Grand Meaulnes, considered by many to be one of the most important works of French literature. It was also his only work. Though he had started another, it was incomplete when he, like Henry Moseley, enlisted to serve his country during WWI. He died a month after joining up in 1914, but his body wasn’t identified until 1991. Alain-Fournier was his pseudonym, by the way - his real name was Henri Alban-Fournier.

9. Reggie Lewis. The pro basketball player had been with the Boston Celtics for six years when he collapsed on the court during an off-season practice at Brandeis University on July 27, 1993. His cause of death was determined to be sudden cardiac arrest.

10. We're reaching on this one, but John Wilkes Booth was a month away from his 27th birthday when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Booth, of course, was killed almost two weeks later.

More from mental_floss...

July 23, 2011 - 5:19pm
submit to reddit