It really speaks volumes about how our lives nowadays are so captivated by celebrity culture when the death of a man who, in not-too-distant history, eradicated a wide-spread and lethal disease is overlooked by so many, practically forgotten.
Clearly though this shouldn’t detract from any of the deaths that have taken place in 2016, celebrity or otherwise, they are all tragedies, however many historical figures who have both shaped and influenced our lives tend to get forgotten because they lack the popularity, publicity and status that the likes of music and film stars have.
Doctor Donald Henderson directed an international vaccination programme which eradicated the smallpox disease throughout the world in 1967.
Dr Henderson embarked on a ten-year voyage across the globe traveling to Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Somalia so that “almost all of Asia and Africa were free of smallpox”. The disease had been rife, killing more than 500 MILLION in just the 20th century. The American doctor was awarded a presidential medal of freedom in 2002 for his efforts.
Dr Henderson died in a Maryland hospital in August at the age of 87 after fracturing his hip following a fall.
Some did notice his death, also pointing out the great importance of his work:
It’s not that I don’t mourn the passing of the celebrities who died this year, but why did #DrDonaldHenderson’s death go unnoticed?
— Remittance Girl (@RemittanceGirl) December 29, 2016
It would seem that almost everyone’s focus this year has been on celebrity, rather than on history…
Most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mum Debbie Reynolds follow a long line of high-profile deaths during 2016; George Michael (signer/songwriter), David Bowie (signer/songwriter), Alan Rickman (actor), Victoria Wood (actor/writer), Caroline Aherne (actor/writer/director), Liz Smith (actor), Prince (singer/songwriter) and Gene Wilder (actor) to name just a few… All of which are enormous cultural losses, but figures such as Dr Henderson should definitely be remembered to the same degree as them.