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Obituaries in Skepticism in 2011 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Tim Farley   

[Editor's Note: This is the first in a three part 2011 Year In Review. Watch for the next two installments on the following two Wednesdays.]

With the end of the year we must mark the passing of many personalities that shape skepticism.  The year 2010 was overshadowed by the passing of Martin Gardner, and in 2011 the person most talked about is certainly Christopher Hitchens.  Many tributes to him have been posted across the skeptic and atheist blogosphere, with more no doubt to come.  

But as I research skeptic history I think it is important we also pay attention to the other lesser-known personalities that help shape both the skeptic community as well as our cultural competitors, who we lost in 2011.  These people helped shape what we know as skepticism.

I am sometimes inclined to break lists like this into two, one for skeptics and one for believers. However several of the people this year are difficult to pigeonhole that way.  For instance Hilary Evans, who died July 27.  He was a member of the Society for Psychical Research and other Fortean groups in the UK, but also was well thought of in the UK skeptic community and contributed to the The Skeptic (UK) magazine.  Or Lynn Margulis the evolutionary biologist (died November 22), who was instrumental in important new aspects of evolutionary theory, but also espoused some conspiracy theories and HIV/AIDS denialism at times.  

And so I've put the obituaries in a simple alphabetical list. Each of these people helped shape the world of skepticism, many in very positive ways and some in other ways. We mark their passage into skeptic history.

Robert Ader - researched placebos and psychoneuroimmunology - February 20, 1932 – December 20, 2011
José Argüelles - promoted “Harmonic Convergence” - January 24, 1939 – March 23, 2011
Sai Baba - Indian guru and “god man” - November 23, 1926 – April 24, 2011
William C. Bequette - coined the term “flying saucers” - Sept. 16, 1917 – April 24, 2011
Al Bielek - Claimed survivor of Philadelphia Experiment - March 31, 1927 – October 10, 2011
Barry Blumberg - Nobel laureate physician & vaccine inventor  - July 28, 1925 – April 5, 2011
Bill Broderick - Ontario humanist & skeptic - 1931 – October 10, 2011
Rob Buckman - Humanist & TV personality -  August 22, 1948 – October 9, 2011
Joe Cooper - Cottingley fairies debunker - Feb 3, 1924 – Aug. 16, 2011
William R. Corliss - Writer about anomalous phenomena - August 28, 1926 – July 8, 2011
Sahar Dimus - Orang pendek tracker and tiger shaman - February 3, 1969 – November 14, 2011
Robert Ettinger - "Father of cryonics" - December 4, 1918 – July 23, 2011
Hilary Evans - Fortean researcher - March 6, 1929 – July 27, 2011
Walter M. Fitch - evolutionary biologist, member NCSE - May 21, 1929 – March 11, 2011
Paul J. Gaylor - Freedom From Religion Foundation - August 30, 1926 – May 5, 2011
Steven G. Gey - attorney who litigated Edwards v. Aguillard - April 6, 1956 – June 9, 2011
Robert Girard - Fortean bookseller - July 9, 1942 – August 12, 2011
Charles E. Hickson, Sr. - claimed alien abduction victim - April 16, 1931 – September 9, 2011
Christopher Hitchens - writer, journalist, raconteur, atheist - April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011
Ion Hobana - science fiction writer & UFOlogist - January 25, 1931 – February 22, 2011
Budd Hopkins - father of the alien-abduction movement - June 15, 1931 – August 21, 2011
James P. Hosty - FBI agent who interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald - August 28, 1924 – June 10, 2011
Miriam Karlin - British actress, humanist, atheist - June 23, 1925 – June 3, 2011
Don Lapre - “King of the Infomercials” - May 19, 1964 – October 2, 2011
Anthony Tobin Layng - anthropologist, skeptic - 1932 – June 12, 2011
Lynn Margulis - evolutionary biologist - March 5, 1938 – November 22, 2011
Sean C. Marshall - founder of a US school of TCM - 1948 – February 13, 2011
Ernan McMullin - philosopher who wrote on creationism - October 13, 1924 – February 8, 2011
Derek K. Miller - writer, skeptic, atheist, husband, father - June 30, 1969 – May 3, 2011
Brian O'Leary - former astronaut who promoted "new energy" etc. - January 27, 1940 – July 28, 2011
Bette Orsini - Pulitizer Prize winning journalist - December 2, 1925 – March 26, 2011
Fred Newman - Fringe politician, playwright and "therapy cult" leader - June 17, 1935 – July 3, 2011
Premananda - controversial religious leader and convicted felon - November 17, 1951 – February 21, 2011
Steve Randak - biology teacher who fought creationism - April 26, 1945 – August 23, 2011
Theodore Roszak - writer and neo-Luddite who coined the term “counterculture” - November 15, 1933 – July 5, 2011
Gunter Sachs - filmmaker who funded astrology research - November 14, 1932 – May 7, 2011
Linda Scarberry - original “Mothman” cryptid eyewitness - June 10, 1947 – March 6, 2011
Helmut Schmidt - physicist and parapsychologist - February 21, 1928 - August 18, 2011
Niall Shanks - philosopher of science concerned with creationism - January 18, 1959 – July 13, 2011
David Sencer - head of CDC during the 1970s swine flu - November 10, 1924 – May 2, 2011
David Servan-Schreiber - promoted non-standard cancer treatments, "Anticancer" - April 21, 1961 – July 24, 2011
M. Lloyd “Doc” Sipe - Veterinarian and bigfoot researcher - April 15, 1923 – March 4, 2011
Rob Solàrion - Velikovsky researcher & promoter of “Planet X” - 1943 – February 2011
Nirmala Srivastava - New religious leader - March 21, 1923 – February 23, 2011
Roch Thériault - cult leader & convicted murderer - May 16, 1947 – February 26, 2011
Jean-Gaston Tremblay - "Pope Gregory XVII," leader of Canadian cult - 1928 - December 31, 2011
Richard Webster - wrote about abuse hysterias in England - December 17, 1950 – June 24, 2011
David Wilkerson - Christian evangelist & failed end-times prophet - May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011
Joan Wood - medical examiner in Lisa McPherson (Scientology) case - July 17, 1944 – July 19, 2011
Winstone Zulu - AIDS activist - Jan. 7, 1964 – Oct. 12, 2011
 

 

Tim Farley is a JREF Research Fellow in electronic media. He is the creator of the website What's the Harm and blogs at Skeptical Software Tools. He researched the dates in JREF's Today in Skeptic History iPhone app and has presented at three TAMs. You can follow him on Twitter here.