TODDLER TEETH turned deadly serious--and scientifically invaluable--in 1958, when pathologist Walter Bauer helped start the St. Louis Baby Tooth Survey to study the effects of nuclear fallout on children. By 1970 the team had collected 300,000 shed primary teeth, which, they discovered, had absorbed nuclear waste from the milk of cows that were fed contaminated grass. The study helped establish an early-'60s ban on aboveground A-bomb testing and led to similar surveys across the U.S. and the rest of the world. Bauer was 82.
HE HELPED OPEN THE DOOR for modern biotechnology. Contrary to the then widely held view that bacteria reproduced by cell division, thereby creating genetically identical clones, graduate student Joshua Lederberg discovered in the '40s that bacteria can have sex, reproduce and exchange genetic material. The research won him half the 1958 Nobel Prize. Later, the longtime Rockefeller University president became the first to demonstrate that an organism's genetic material could be manipulated. He was 82.
YOU KNOW YOU'VE portrayed a villain well if the public hates you for your work. Barry Morse, a critically acclaimed British actor with 3,000 TV, film and stage roles to his credit, suffered everything from heckling to pocketbook beatings for his most famous role, Lieutenant Philip Gerard in TV's '60s hit series The Fugitive. As the heartless detective who doggedly hunts Dr. Richard Kimble, unjustly accused of killing his wife, Morse said, "I was the most hated man in America, and I loved it." He was 89.
THE BEATLES MADE THEIR guru famous when they visited his ashram in 1968, but in the end, Transcendental Meditation founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi may have regretted the association. The maharishi brought TM--the practice of exploring consciousness through meditation and chanting--to the U.S. in 1959, and with the cachet of star followers like the Rolling Stones and Mia Farrow, it became a multimillion-dollar global business. But the gray-haired guru was said to have become uncomfortable with its drug-using, counterculture fan base. After the Fab Four's celebrated visit, the band and its guru famously split. The maharishi was believed to be 91.
"WE WERE ON OUR WAY, we hoped, to freedom," said British pilot Bertram (Jimmy) James of his exploits as a prisoner of war and a perennially frustrated escape artist. "That wasn't quite the case." After taking part in the most famous attempt of World War II--the mass exit from Poland's Stalag Luft III, depicted in the 1963 film The Great Escape-- James survived a labor camp and went on to work in Britain's diplomatic service. James was 92.
AMERICAN SCHOLAR CALLED Robert Ball the "undisputed spiritual leader" of Social Security. Ball, who joined the program in 1939 (four years after its creation), rose to become its commissioner under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He expanded benefits, led the development of Medicare and drafted a bill proposing universal health insurance. Ball was pivotal to the program's 1983 bailout and as recently as last year was drafting alternatives to President Bush's privatization plans, which he detested. He was 93.
THE WINNINGEST coach in Division I men's college basketball made headlines for throwing a chair across court and for several alleged assaults. Still, the purity of Bob Knight's passion drew loyal fans. As Indiana's legendary leader from 1971 to 2000, "the General" took the Hoosiers to an undefeated '76 season--a feat not since repeated--and three NCAA championships. Knight, 67, who led the U.S. to Olympic gold in 1984, emphasized teamwork, never broke NCAA rules and ran clean programs with high graduation rates. In a sudden midseason move, the combative Hall of Famer resigned on Feb. 4 as head coach at Texas Tech, his home since being fired by Indiana. Knight, who is succeeded by his son Pat, told colleagues he was tired. But he was also following a tradition of writing his own script. Last year, when he broke the record for game wins, the song he chose to play over the loudspeaker was My Way. "When I think back on it," he said then, "I don't think my way was all that bad."