Michael Collins, 90, who piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft Columbia in orbit 60 miles above the moon while his crewmates, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first men to walk on the lunar surface, died Wednesday at a hospice facility in Naples, Florida. The cause was cancer.
Collins left NASA a year after the Apollo 11 mission, when he was named assistant secretary of state for public affairs. He became director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in 1971 and presided over the opening of its building on the National Mall five years later to mark the nation’s bicentennial. He was appointed undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1978 and was named vice president of the LTV Aerospace and Defense Co. in 1980. He later formed a consulting firm. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1982 as a major general.
Al Schmitt, 91, 20-time Grammy winner whose extraordinary career as a recording engineer and producer included albums by Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and many other top performers of the past 60 years, died Monday; he had lived in the Los Angeles area.
He worked on more than 150 gold records, in a wide range of styles. He engineered Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” and Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night,” Steely Dan’s “Aja” and Madonna’s “This Used to be My Playground,” Natalie Cole’s blockbuster “Unforgettable” album and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” He produced “Volunteers” and several other Jefferson Airplane albums, helped produce Neil Young’s “On the Beach” and more recently Bob Dylan’s “Shadows in the Night” and Paul McCartney’s “Kisses on the Bottom.”
Adam Kolton, 52, the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League and one of the top environmental lobbyists in D.C., died Monday.
While with the AWL, Kolton lead a successful defense of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the George W. Bush administration. During his tenure at the National Wildlife Federation, he worked to protect public lands in the Rocky Mountain West, fund agriculture conservation, reform U.S. Army Corps of Engineers policies and protect millions of acres of wetlands and streams. After the Trump administration opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration, Kolton pledged to continue the battle in the courts.
Christa Ludwig, 93, one of the premier mezzo-sopranos of the second half of the 20th century who was a renowned interpreter of Wagner, Mozart and Strauss and starred on the world’s great stages for four decades, died April 24 at her home in Klosterneuburg, Austria.
Ludwig commanded a broad range of the great mezzo-soprano parts, including Dorabella in Mozart’s “Così fan tutte,” Cherubino in his “Le Nozze di Figaro,” Octavian in Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier,” Bizet’s Carmen and numerous Wagner roles, but also took on soprano roles, most successfully in that category, including the Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier,” the dyer’s wife in “Die Frau Ohne Schatten” and Leonore in Beethoven’s “Fidelio.”
Daniel Kaminsky, 42, a security researcher known for his discovery of a fundamental flaw in the fabric of the internet, died April 23 at his home in San Francisco. The cause was diabetes ketoacidosis, a serious diabetic condition that led to his frequent hospitalization in recent years.
In 2008, Kaminsky was widely hailed as a latter-day, digital Paul Revere after he found a serious flaw in the internet’s basic plumbing that could allow skilled coders to take over websites, siphon off bank credentials or even shut down the internet. Kaminsky alerted the Department of Homeland Security, executives at Microsoft and Cisco, and other internet security experts to the problem and helped spearhead a patch.
Jill Corey, 85, a torch singer who soared to fame as a teenage television star in the early 1950s, at one point becoming one of Columbia Records’ top vocalists, died April 3 at a hospital in Pittsburgh. The cause was septic shock.
The youngest daughter of a widowed coal miner, she was born Norma Jean Speranza in Avonmore, Pennsylvania. When she was 17, a local DJ helped her record a tape singing unaccompanied, except for the sound of a train rattling as it passed by the studio. They then sent the tape to Mitch Miller, the bandleader turned hitmaker for Columbia Records in New York City. By 18, Corey had a new name and fast career. She gave it all up when she married the baseball player Don Hoak, in 1961.
John C. Martin, 69, chemist who became a billionaire by developing and marketing a daily single-dose pill that transformed HIV into a manageable disease and who popularized another drug that cures hepatitis C, died March 30 in Palo Alto, California. His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by Gilead Sciences, where he was chief executive from 1996 to 2016 and executive chairperson from 2016 until he retired two years later. The cause was head injuries suffered the day before, when he fell on a sidewalk while walking home, according to the Santa Clara County medical examiner.
Martin, who started at Gilead in 1990, turned a struggling pharmaceutical firm with a staff of 35 into a $100 billion company based in Foster City, California, with some 12,000 employees.
John Richards, 97, a British newspaperman who attracted a flurry of international attention when he founded and later resignedly disbanded the Apostrophe Protection Society, a self-styled bulwark against the “barbarians” laying waste to a humble yet essential element of the English language, died March 30 at a hospital in Boston, a town in Lincolnshire, England. The cause was sepsis.
By the end of his career, Richards was “fed up with correcting reporters’ copy” and told The Wall Street Journal that he “decided to do something” about a common and especially vexing category of error. In 2001, he founded the Apostrophe Protection Society. The name of his association reflected his view of the tiny punctuation mark as a “poor defenseless creature,” its very existence in danger as technology increasingly encouraged speed over grammatical precision and the English-speaking population sank, in the view of the most curmudgeonly sticklers, into a disgraceful form of semiliteracy.