The Doctor, the Submariner, and the Cook

 

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In 1958, a Soviet virologist proposed that all countries work together to end smallpox.  As this tribute notes,” no disease had ever been eradicated. No one knew if it could even be done.”

In 1977, the last case was found in Somalia.

Smallpox is the only human disease to have been eradicated. Thanks to what Viktor Zhdanov started, efforts to end polio, malaria, and several other diseases are now underway.

 

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During the Cuban Missile Crisis, a US warship began to fire warning shots at a Soviet submarine. Unfortunately, only the Americans knew it was a warning.

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The Explorer

 

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In her spare time, Alexander wrote two books on science for children and mentored young people, especially African American girls. “She wanted children of color to see themselves as scientists,” her sister Suzanne said.

 

The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799. Carved two thousand years before, its text was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, which had been a mystery.

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Claudia Alexander was NASA’s top scientist on the Rosetta project, which launched a spacecraft on a ten-year mission to a comet. Comets are small icy worlds created when the planets were formed, billions of years ago. By studying comets, we learn about our own origins.

As she said in a LA Times profile, published less than a year before her death from cancer, “For me, this is among the purposes of my life — to take us from states of ignorance to states of understanding with bold exploration that you can’t do every day.”

 

 

 

The Guarantors

The French Revolution, like the American Revolution, advanced an idea that was then revolutionary: people have basic rights.

Police officers Ahmed Merabet and Xavier Jugelé died protecting these rights.

 

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“He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Officer Merabet, a Muslim, was killed by terrorists who attacked a satirical newspaper known for mocking Islam.

Officer Jugelé, a gay man, was killed guarding the cultural bureau of Turkey, a Muslim country.

 

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The Vexillologist

 

 

Before Whitney Smith, the study of flags didn’t have a name. So he invented the word vexillology. He was 18 years old.

According to his New York Times obituary, this scholar not only increased our knowledge of flags; he added to them:

Mr. Smith came up with a prototype, a golden arrowlike triangle with an overlapping red triangle against a green ground. He then asked his mother to sew it and sent it in. It was adopted, with slight modifications. Mr. Smith did not find out for six years, when Guyana gained formal independence.

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There have been over two dozen versions  of the Stars and Stripes since independence. Which was Mr. Smith’s favorite? The Betsy Ross flag, because “a ring of stars better symbolizes our harmony in diversity.”

 

 

The Laugher

Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest, and the first woman to climb the tallest mountain on each continent.

 

Her obituary in the Christian Science Monitor observes:

The early climbing achievements of Tabei, a married mother of two, were especially noteworthy at a time when most women were expected to stay home and perform domestic duties.

They are all the more noteworthy considering she was once labeled a “weak child.”

She had the last laugh, though: even after a cancer diagnosis in her seventies, she continued to climb, working toward her goal of scaling the highest peak in every country in the world.

 

“Mount Fuji & Sakura,” Hideo

 

There is a poetic device in Japanese haiku poetry called a kigo, a word or phrase associated with a season. Fittingly,  Tabei’s favorite, expressing spring, was “the mountain laughs.”

 

 

Bob Kalsu

 

In 1968, Bob Kalsu was the Buffalo Bills’ rookie of the year. The next year he was an artillery officer in Vietnam.

Most other draftable pro athletes elected to serve in the reserves. Kalsu’s family and friends urged him to go that route. “I’m no better than anybody else… I gave ’em my word,” Kalsu said, referring to his promise, on joining ROTC, to serve on active duty. “I’m gonna do it.”

The Sports Illustrated profile of Kalsu is well worth reading any day, and especially on Super Bowl Sunday.

Word had gotten around the firebase that he had played for the Bills, but he would shrug off any mention of it. “Yeah, I play football,” he would say. What he talked about – incessantly – was his young family back home.

Grantland‘s “The Death of Bob Kalsu” describes the toll of his loss on that family.

For almost 30 years, Bob Jr. felt partially responsible for his father’s death. As the story went, Bob Kalsu was killed while running out to meet a helicopter that might be bringing the news of his son’s impending birth.

It took this NFL documentary to relieve Kalsu’s son of that burden.

If you’re watching today’s game with friends and family, take a moment to remember this devoted friend and family man who wore both his professional uniforms with distinction.