— christhebarker (@christhebarker) December 29, 2016
It just goes to show how celebrity-centric our culture is when the death of a man who eradicated a widespread deadly disease is overlooked.
This is not to take away from any celebrity deaths, which are all complete tragedies, but many historical figures who have influenced our lives in unparalleled ways get forgotten because they lack the popularity, publicity, and status that the likes of music and film stars possess.
Dr Donald Henderson directed an international vaccination program that eradicated smallpox throughout the world in 1967.
— Gavin John Adams (@gavinjohnadams) December 27, 2016
Henderson embarked on a ten-year voyage across the globe, travelling to Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Somalia, so that ‘almost all of Asia and Africa were free of smallpox’.
The infectious disease killed over 500 million in the 20th century alone, and the American physician was awarded a presidential medal of freedom in 2002 for his incredible efforts.
— stapf (@stapf) December 28, 2016
The medical hero died in a Maryland hospital in August of this year at the age of 87 after fracturing his hip.
Some people did however notice his death, and pointed out the international 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?
— Madeleine (@RemittanceGirl) December 29, 2016
It is clear that everyone’s focus has been on celebrity instead of history…
— Haynes Lab (@UofEHL) December 28, 2016
An unsung hero…
— ElizabethJB (@ElizabethJBond) December 29, 2016
Carrie Fisher and her mother follow a string of high profile deaths this year, including George Michael, Liz Smith, Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Prince.
These are all huge cultural losses for the world, and figures like Dr Henderson should be remembered to the same degree as them.