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Notable deaths in Science-Technology

By PAT NASON, United Press International   |   Dec. 26, 2012 at 2:02 PM   |   Comments

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The first man on the moon, the first American woman in space and several Nobel laureates whose work transformed everyday life topped the list of figures in science and technology who died in 2012.

Neil Armstrong, a national hero after becoming the first man to set foot on the moon, died at age 82. His family called him a loving family man and "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."

Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission and captured the world's attention when he set foot on the lunar surface July 20, 1969, declaring: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." He later insisted he said "small step for a man" but the "a" was lost in transmission.

Armstrong received the Medal of Freedom, the highest award offered to a U.S. civilian.

Sally Ride, who died at age 61, became the first U.S. woman in space when she served on the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger in June 1983, at age 32.

Janice Voss, one of five U.S. women to follow Ride into space, died at age 55. Voss flew on five space shuttle missions from 1993 to 2000 and was payload commander on two of them.

Lowell Randall, the last surviving member of the team of rocket scientists that developed the U.S. space program, died at age 96. A contemporary of rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard, Randall worked as a rocket engineer from the 1930s through World War II and into late 20th century space program research.

Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990 for his pioneering work in organ transplants, died at age 93. Murray performed the first successful organ transplant in 1954, transplanting a healthy kidney from Ronald Herrick into Herrick's identical twin, Richard.

Stanford R. Ovshinsky, who invented the nickel-metal hybrid battery and a host of other devices, died at age 89. Ovshinsky, who was largely self-taught, contributed to the development devices such as solar energy panels, flat-panel displays and rewritable compact discs.

His nickel-metal battery technology is used to power hybrid cars, portable electronics and many other devices. The Economist magazine, in an article about him titled "The Edison of Our Age?" placed him in "the league of genius inventors."

British cell biologist Keith Campbell, who helped create one of the most famous animals ever -- Dolly the cloned sheep -- died at age 58. The 1997 announcement that a mammal had been cloned from an adult animal, resulted in considerable controversy, including concerns the development might lead to human cloning. Several countries and U.S. states subsequently banned human reproductive cloning and the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration in 2005 calling for its members to prohibit human cloning in any form.

Elwood Jensen, a molecular biologist whose work in the 1980s on breast cancer detection still provides guidance for treatment of the disease, died at 92.

Jensen developed techniques for detecting and measuring estrogen receptor proteins in breast cancer. The presence of the protein indicates a tumor will respond to tamoxifen, a drug that blocks estrogen from binding with receptors in the tumor.

Andrew Huxley -- who shared the 1963 prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering how nerves generate the electrical impulses that control muscle activities -- died at age 94. Huxley had served as master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge from 1984-90.

He shared the 1963 prize with Alan Hodgkin and John Eccles of Austria.

Eric R. Kandel, a Nobel laureate in 2000, said the discovery by Huxley and Hodgkin "did for the cell biology of neurons what the structure of DNA did for the rest of biology."

Eugene Polley, the American inventor of the television remote control -- a device that transformed media consumption patterns and television programming practices around the globe -- died at age 96. Polley designed the Flash-Matic remote control in 1955 -- a device that allowed viewers to change channels and control volume by pointing a ray-gun shaped device at photo cells built into the face of Zenith televisions.

Roland Moreno, the Egyptian-born French inventor of smart card technology found in phone cards, bank cards and SIM cards worldwide, died at age 66. Born in Cairo in 1945, Moreno was 29 when he patented the concept for a miniature electronic circuit board that could hold secure electronic data, an invention that would eventually earn him more than $130 million in royalties.

His patent became the foundation of so-called smart cards, equipped with a miniature computer chip and now found around the world. The technology also brought the SIM card used in cellphones.

Jack Tramiel, whose low-cost Commodore PCs introduced millions of people to computers in the late 1970s and early '80s, died at age 83. Commodore International introduced its first low-cost PC, the Commodore PET, in 1977, followed by the Commodore VIC-20 in 1980 and the hugely popular Commodore 64.

"Jack Tramiel is really the man who brought the average person into the computer industry," said Michael S. Malone, a Silicon Valley historian and author.

N. Joseph Woodland, a co-inventor of the barcode found on almost every product modern society creates and sells, died at age 91.

Woodland was a graduate student Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, now Drexel University, in the 1940s, when he and a classmate, Bernard Silver, created a technology of printed stripes of varying width to encode consumer-product information that could be optically scanned.

Woodland received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1992 and was a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Arthur R. Jensen, whose suggestion that a gap in IQ scores between black and white students might be rooted in genetic differences ignited controversy, died at age 88.

Jensen, who was an emeritus professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a 1969 article in The Harvard Educational Review, general intelligence is largely genetically determined, with cultural forces -- nurture -- having only a small effect. Branded by some as a racist, Jensen was heckled at speaking engagements throughout his career and even received death threats.

Martin Fleischmann, the chemist who with Stanley Pons made the controversial claim in 1989 of achieving "cold fusion," died at age 85. The Czech-born chemist, who moved to England in 1938, was working with Pons, an American scientist, at the University of Utah when their controversial experiment was carried out.

Researchers around the world attempted, without success, to replicate the simple experiment that seemed to promise almost unlimited cheap energy and the concept of fusion in normal laboratory conditions was discredited, amid accusations of "sloppy" work or even outright fraud.

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