Dr Donald Henderson: The most significant death of 2016 you didn't hear about

Narjas Zatat@Narjas_Zatat
Wednesday 28 December 2016 15:00
(Picture: Alex Wong/Getty)

Actor Carrie Fisher passed away at age 60, four days after suffering a heart attack on a flight to Los Angeles.

The actor who played Star Wars’ Princess Leia follows a string of high profile deaths in 2016– George Michael, Liz Smith, Gene Wilder and Prince.

But amidst these deaths – which were all heavy blows to the world’s cultural heritage – there was one death that wasn’t as well known.

Dr Donald Henderson died on 19 August this year, aged 87.

Who was he?

Dr Henderson was an epidemiologist who embarked on a 10-year voyage across the world, and managed to almost eradicate smallpox.

Travelling around the globe - Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Somalia, to name but a few countries – his exhaustive efforts meant that by 1975, “almost all of Asia and Africa were free of smallpox”.

Often referred to as the "scourge of the world", some 300 million people died from smallpox in the 20th century alone.


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