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11 Not-So-Famous People We Lost in 2012

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Getty Images

It’s been a solemn year for the deaths of famous and significant people – and as always, many died who were less famous, but should be saluted nonetheless for their contributions to the world. Here are 11 of the lesser-known greats who passed this year.

1. Murray Lender: Bagel Tycoon

Lender's Bagels Historical Images

Murray Lender, son of a Polish baker in Connecticut, took his father’s bagels—the “Jewish English muffin”, as Murray called them—and turned them into a household food, as all-American as apple pie or hot dogs. In 1974, he became president of his father’s shop, Lender’s Bagels, and together with two brothers, expanded the kitchen where they spent their childhoods hand-rolling bagels into a New Haven factory which mass-produced bagels and sent them to 30 states. He promoted bagels (formerly known as a distinctly Jewish fare) across America, re-inventing them as a versatile sandwich bread. The company (now owned by Pinnacle Foods) made $41 million last year, but that’s now only a small part of the American bagel industry. Bagels, after all, are now so much a part of U.S. food culture that people probably assume George Washington ate them.

2. Jim Marshall: The Father of Loud

He might not be as famous as most rock stars, but his name is certainly familiar to rock music fans. Jim Marshall, a drummer and music teacher, opened a music shop in suburban London in 1960, which was frequented by teenage aspiring musicians like Peter Townshend (later of The Who) and Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple). At Townshend’s suggestion, Marshall developed the Marshall amplifier in 1962—an amp that was affordable, portable enough to be carried in the back of a car, but loud enough to give Marshall the title “the Father of Loud."  The sound was not as clean as the Fender amps that ruled the market at time, but introduced the “throaty” Marshall sound, which would influence the sound of rock music from then on. Marshall amps became a mainstay of rock concerts from Nirvana to Elton John. In the 1970s, The Who earned the Guinness Record as the loudest band in the world—using Marshall’s classic 100-watt amplifier.

3. Vladka Meed: Heroine of the Polish Resistance

[caption id="attachment_158016" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="Vladka Meed, center, with First Lady Laura Bush, 2001. /Alex Wong"][/caption]

Vladka Meed’s life as a courier and weapons smuggler for the Jewish resistance in Poland during World War II would make an incredible book—so she wrote it. In 1948, she published On Both Sides of the Wall, one of the first eyewitness accounts of the ghetto and the uprising, and a salute to her toughness. She was one of the hundreds of thousands of Jews systematically rounded up and forced into a filthy, one-square-mile Warsaw ghetto. “Her father died of pneumonia in the ghetto, and her mother and two siblings were deported, to perish at the Treblinka death camp. To remain a human being in the ghetto one had to live in constant defiance, to act illegally,” she recalled. She joined the Jewish Fighting Organization, using forged papers and her fluency in Polish to pose as a Gentile, moving outside the ghetto among the ethnic Polish population. As the resistance force grew, she smuggled homemade dynamite and other weapons into the ghetto for an uprising that launched in April 1943 and lasted 27 days, decimating the ghetto and freeing its prisoners. She later arranged hiding places for the survivors, remaining in Poland until the end of the war. For the next six decades, her writings and lectures revealed more about the horrors of the Polish ghettos, and in 1984 she started a national teacher-training program on the Holocaust, highlighting the role of the Warsaw resistance.

4. Richard B. Scudder: Newspaper Recycling Pioneer

Richard B. Scudder was co-founder of the Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc., one of the largest U.S. newspaper companies, with 57 newspapers in 11 states. However, for those who don’t read journals like The Denver Post or The San Jose Mercury News, he should still be remembered for helping to invent a process allowing newsprint to be recycled. While many people extolling the virtues of internet news have talked about how many trees are knocked down to print the daily papers, it could have been much worse if not for Scudder, who perhaps saved several forests. In the early 1950s, a news dealer suggested a process to remove ink from newsprint so that newspapers could be recycled into quality newsprint. Scudder used his resources to test the process in his office and develop it further, before moving it to the labs. In 1961, he founded the Garden State Paper Co., whose New Jersey mill became among the largest in the world for recycled newspaper.

5. Camilla Williams: America's First Great African-American Soprano

Wikimedia Commons

In 1955, Marian Anderson made headlines as the first African-American singer to appear at New York's prestigious Metropolitan Opera. Nine years earlier, however, Camilla Williams broke down even greater barriers at the New York City Opera, becoming the first African-American woman to appear with a major U.S. opera company. Her performance as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini's Madame Butterfly was well-praised, with The New York Times saying that she displayed “a vividness and subtlety unmatched by any other artist who has assayed the part here in many a year.” She later toured overseas, and was the first black artist to sing a major role with the Vienna State Opera. The daughter of a chauffeur, she was singing at a Baptist church when a Welsh voice teacher came to the segregated town of Danville, Virginia, where she grew up. Though the teacher was assigned to teach at a school for white girls, she decided to teach a group of black girls on the side, and Williams was a star pupil, becoming a music teacher and eventually being offered a scholarship for vocal training. Many African-American blues and rock stars were involved in the civil rights movement, of course, but few opera singers. Williams, however, added a classical presence to concerts in 1963 to raise funds to free jailed civil rights demonstrators. She sang at the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, D.C., immediately before Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream" speech. She also sang at King's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony the following year.

6. F. Sherwood Rowland: Ozone-Hole Explorer

Unlike other major awards, there is no time limit for the Nobel Prizes, provided they are presented within the recipients’ lifetimes. F. Sherwood Rowland shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry with two other scientists in 1995, a few years after they had already saved the world. Almost two decades earlier, Rowland, of the University of California, and post-doctoral student Mario Molina built upon findings by atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen, suggesting that the Earth’s fragile ozone layer is formed and decomposed through chemical processes in the atmosphere. Among their discoveries: chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs), used regularly in household aerosols, were fast destroying the ozone layer. This won enormous attention and, of course, was strongly challenged by industry, as the non-toxic properties of CFCs were thought to be environmentally safe. When the ozone hole was found over the Earth's polar regions a decade later, even the most skeptical corporations had to admit that they had a point. Rowland spoke out to ban CFCs, and the United Nations did so in 1989. Now that this work was done, he became a prominent voice for scientists concerned about global warming. “If you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn't it your responsibility to do something about it, enough so that action actually takes place?" he said at a White House climate change roundtable in 1997. “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

7. Joseph E. Murray: Organ Transplant Pioneer

[caption id="attachment_158018" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="Joseph E. Murray, center, and team perform the first successful kidney transplant operation. 1954, Brigham and Women's Hospital"][/caption]

Dr. Joseph Murray not only performed the first successful kidney transplant in 1954, but the first transplant of any human organ. Working at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, he developed new surgical techniques, experimenting by transplanting kidneys in dogs. The first human patient was 23-year-old Richard Herrick, suffering from end-stage kidney failure, who received a kidney from his identical twin, Ronald. Sadly, Richard only lived another eight years, but that was long enough to marry a nurse from the hospital and have two children. Murray continued to achieve breakthroughs, so that patients lived many years longer, and in 1962, he completed the first organ transplant from an unrelated donor. (This was eight years before Dr. Christiaan Barnard became famous for performing the first heart transplant.) Proving that Nobel Prizes don’t guarantee fame (though they do provide some fortune) – and that you might need to be patient if you want one – Murray won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1990. “Kidney transplants seem so routine now,” he said, “but the first one was like Lindbergh's flight across the ocean.”

8. William Lawlis Pace: Miracle Man

[caption id="attachment_158019" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="William Lawlis Pace points to the place where a bullet is lodged in his head. 2007, P Photo/The Modesto Bee"][/caption]

Another man with a very different place in medical history, Texan cemetery custodian William Pace holds the Guinness World Record for (are you ready for this?) living the longest with a bullet in his head. He died peacefully this year at age 103, a full 94 years and six months after his older brother accidentally shot him with their father's .22-caliber rifle in 1917. Doctors left the bullet in place because they worried that surgery might cause brain damage. The injury damaged one of his eyes and facial nerves, but Pace lived a very long and full life.

9. Eugene Polley: Patron Saint of Couch Potatoes

Lazy people everywhere can thank Eugene Polley for a machine that has enabled them to live their sedentary lifestyles: the TV remote-control. Though he wasn’t the first inventor to pioneer remote-control devices (Nikola Tesla was experimenting with one in the 19th century!), Polley changed the world with “Flash-Matic tuning," a unique feature of Zenith televisions way back in 1955, operated through a green contraption with a red trigger that could perform “TV miracles” while remaining “absolutely harmless to humans!” Pointing a beam of light at photo cells in the corners of the television screen, the Flash-Matic could turn on the picture, mute the sound during annoying commercials and, of course, change the channels. But the Chicago engineer’s invention (one of 18 patents that he received) achieved more than just a world of couch potatoes. It opened a new world beyond mechanical knobs and levers. “Without his idea, you might not have gotten to the Internet,”said Richard Doherty, CEO of technology research company Envisioneering. “It set the pace for dozens for follow-on inventions that go beyond the physical.” Polley also worked on radar advances for the U.S. Department of Defense during World War II, and helped develop the automobile push-button radio and the video disc, a forerunner of the DVD (the size of a vinyl LP rather than a CD).

10. Frances Williams Preston: Champion of Songwriters

Getty Images: Rick Diamond

Frances Preston’s name might not be well-known even to country music devotees, but she has been described as “the single most important figure responsible for making Nashville ‘Music City’.” Fortune magazine called her “one of the true powerhouses of the pop music business.” She won the highest Grammy Award for a non-performer (the National Trustees Award), and was a member of three Halls of Fame. For 22 years, Preston was president of the New York-based royalties company Broadcast Music Inc., which collects and distributes royalties to songwriters. Credited with coining the famous creed “It all begins with a song,” she had previously headed the company’s office in Nashville, ensuring that songwriters were given their due. Of course, many of these songwriters – Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn – were performers as well, and thanks to her efforts, many made more from composers’ royalties than from concert tours. Wielding such influence, she discovered new artists, mentored new music executives, and turned Nashville into a major music hub. When she moved to New York, she helped increase revenues to more than 300,000 songwriters and music publishers, and pioneered licensing rules for the tricky new world of digital media.

11. Jo Dunne: Foremost Fuzzboxing Brit

Jo Dunne was the guitarist, drummer and occasional bassist for the 1980s all-female pop group We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It!! They were almost unknown outside Britain, though they did become the UK’s best-selling female rock band, as opposed to all-girl vocal group. But seriously, with a name like that (usually abbreviated to Fuzzbox), plus songs co-written by Dunne with titles like “Help Me Rhonda, My Boyfriend’s Back” — which, as you might guess, consisted of lines from other songs — they deserve some kind of place in history. Sadly, Dunne was only 43 years old.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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