Categotry Archives: Writers/Editors

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Philip J. Klass

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Categories: Writers/Editors

Although Philip J. Klass was a respected, technical journalist for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, he was best known for his research into the study of little green men and their flying aircraft.
Klass began investigating UFOs in 1966 after participating in a panel discussion on the subject for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He spent the next four decades debunking tales of UFO sightings and alien visits, and published numerous articles and several books on the subject, including The Skeptics UFO Newsletter.
A founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal — with Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, James Randi, Martin Gardner and Sidney Hook — Klass consistently converted UFOs (unidentified flying objects) into IFOs (identified flying objects) such as celestial bodies, research balloons and secret military aircraft.
He researched dozens of extraterrestrial kidnapping cases, including the 1975 Travis Walton “UFO Abduction” case, which he concluded was a hoax. Klass also investigated the MJ-12 Papers — documents that claimed President Harry S. Truman had created a top secret group to cover up a 1947 saucer crash. His investigation showed the papers were counterfeit.
To further cement his reputation as the “Sherlock Holmes of UFOs,” Klass offered $10,000 to anyone whose UFO or alien abduction claims could be verified by the FBI. The reward was never claimed.
The Iowa native earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Iowa State University and went to work as an electrical engineer for General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y. He began writing for Aviation Week & Space Technology in 1952 and eventually became the publication’s senior avionics editor.
Klass received numerous awards for his dedication to science and publishing, including five honors from the Aviation/Space Writers Association, the Lauren D. Lyman Award and the Boeing Decade of Excellence Award for lifetime achievement. In 1999, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid in his honor.
Klass died on Aug. 9 of prostate cancer. He was 85.

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James Dougherty

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Categories: Hollywood, Law, Writers/Editors

James Edward Dougherty, a retired Los Angeles police detective who was once married to Marilyn Monroe, died on Aug. 15 from complications of pneumonia. He was 84.
Norma Jeane Baker was only 16 years old when she wed Dougherty, 21, in 1942. At the time, her only goals in life were to become a homemaker and mother. During World War II, Dougherty joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific. While he was overseas, however, Baker began rethinking her future plans.
Although her husband didn’t approve, Baker decided to pursue a career in acting and modeling, and change her name to Marilyn Monroe. When 20th Century Fox offered her a film contract, it included a stipulation that she be a single woman, so Monroe decided to ask for a separation. Dougherty was on a ship in the Yangtze River getting ready to go into Shanghai when he was served with divorce papers in 1946. He contested the separation, at first, but eventually gave in to her demands.
Upon his permanent return to the states, Dougherty worked as an electrical contractor and ran a gas station in southern California. Several police officers who were regular customers encouraged him to consider a career in law enforcement. Dougherty easily passed the entrance exam, completed his academy training and went to work for the Los Angeles Police Department. As a patrolman, he once handled crowd control for the premiere of his ex-wife’s film, “The Asphalt Jungle.” Dougherty later worked his way up the ranks, serving as a detective and an instructor for the department’s first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.
After 25 years on the force, Dougherty retired in 1974. He spent the remainder of his life residing in Arizona and Maine. Dougherty was elected to a county commission in Maine, and taught at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. In 1986, he lost a congressional bid to Republican Rep. Albert G. Stevens.
For years, Dougherty refused to talk about his marriage to the legendary sex symbol. But he broke his silence in 1976 with the publication of the book, “The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe.” Its sequel, “To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie,” was released in 1997. Dougherty’s second marriage to Patricia Scoman ended in divorce; his third marriage to Rita Lambert lasted for 32 years, until her death in 2003.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

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Joe Ranft

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Categories: Writers/Editors

joeranft.jpgJoe Ranft, an Oscar-nominated writer and a founding member of the Pixar Animation Studios creative team, was killed on Aug. 16 in a car accident. He was 45.

Born in Pasadena and raised in Whittier, Calif., Ranft attended the California Institute of Arts with director John Lasseter. He joined the story department at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1980, where he worked on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and co-wrote the films “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”

Ranft reunited with Lasseter in 1992 to help transform Pixar into a powerhouse animation studio. For the last 13 years, he worked in story development and provided the voices of Heimlich the caterpillar in “A Bug’s Life,” Wheezy the asthmatic penguin in “Toy Story 2” and Jacques the cleaner fish in “Finding Nemo.” For co-writing the 1995 film “Toy Story,” Ranft earned an Academy Award nomination.

Ranft also supervised the story for “Cars,” a Pixar film scheduled for release next summer, and served as an executive producer on Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride,” which comes out in September. He previously worked with Burton as a storyboard supervisor on “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Last week, Ranft and his friends, Elegba Earl, 32, and Eric Frierson, 39, were driving northbound on Highway 1 in Mendocino County, Calif., en route to take part in a retreat for a mentoring program. Earl, who was driving, lost control of their 2004 Honda Element, veered off the road and over a cliff. The car plunged 130 feet and crashed into the ocean.

Ranft and Earl died from injuries sustained in the accident. Frierson, who was riding in the back seat, survived by climbing through the car’s sun roof. He was hospitalized with moderate injuries.

Listen to a Tribute From NPR

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John H. Ostrom

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Categories: Education, Scientists, Writers/Editors

John Harold Ostrom, a paleontologist who championed the theory that birds descended from theropod dinosaurs, died on July 16 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 77.
Born in New York City and raised in Schenectady, N.Y., Ostrom originally planned to become a doctor, like his father. While doing undergraduate work at Union College, however, he took an elective course in geology that changed his life. Lectures on dinosaurs and books discussing evolution soon inspired him to become a paleontologist instead.
After earning a doctorate in geology and paleontology at Columbia University in 1960, Ostrom joined the faculty at Yale. He remained there for the next three decades and sparked a renaissance in the study of dinosaurs. Upon his retirement in 1992, Ostrom was named an emeritus professor of geology and geophysics.
Whenever he wasn’t teaching in the classroom, Ostrom led fossil-hunting expeditions in the American West. In 1964, he and his assistant Grant E. Meyer were trekking through central Montana when they stumbled upon the sight of three large claws sticking out of an eroded mound of dirt. With barely contained excitement, the pair uncovered the fossilized remains of a small dinosaur.
Ostrom examined the bones of the two-legged creature and hypothesized they belonged to a predatory animal that lived 125 million years ago. A carnivorous dinosaur, it killed its prey by leaping at it and slashing with sharp, sickle-shaped claws. Ostrom named the raptor Deinonychus (meaning “terrible claw”), and declared that it was once a warm-blooded animal with a high metabolism rate. Once Ostrom published his theories in 1969, fierce debate erupted among paleontologists, many of whom dismissed him as a maverick.
A year later, Ostrom made his second significant contribution in the field of paleontology. While visiting a museum in the Netherlands, he noticed the anatomical similarities between a pterosaur, a gliding reptile, and the Archaeopteryx, a creature that was generally accepted as the earliest known bird. This realization prompted Ostrom to reintroduce the idea that birds had an ancestral link to dinosaurs.
When he presented his theory in 1973, the information caused an uproar among both paleontologists and ornithologists. Despite the fact that Ostrom showed more than 200 anatomical features that birds shared with meat-eating dinosaurs — including a wishbone, swiveling wrists and three forward-pointing toes — many in the scientific community continued to believe that dinosaurs evolved into reptiles, not warm-blooded flying mammals.
The opposition eventually accepted Ostrom’s ideas when a number of small, apparently feathered dinosaurs were found in fossil beds in China. The general public was a bit more accepting of his theory after it was loosely presented in the 1990 book “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton, and its 1993 film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg.
“If there are any people left who don’t believe birds came from dinosaurs, I’d put them in the same group as the flat-earth society,” said John R. Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies.
Ostrom was the longtime editor of The American Journal of Science, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the emeritus curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. He published the books “The Strange World of Dinosaurs,” “A Study of Dinosaur Evolution,” and “Marsh’s Dinosaurs: The Collections From Como Bluff,” among others. The Cretaceous period bird/dinosaur Rahonavis ostromi was named in his honor.

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Peter Jennings

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Categories: Writers/Editors

pjennings.jpgEach night for more than 20 years, millions of people turned on their television sets to watch Peter Charles Archibald Ewart Jennings deliver the news. With a thoughtful expression on his handsome face, he shared world events in a dignified manner that inspired unwavering respect and trust from his audience.
A native of Toronto, Canada, Jennings was born to Charles Jennings, the first voice of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and his wife, Elizabeth Jennings, an ardent Canadian nationalist. Even as a child, it was clear Peter was destined to end up on television. At nine, he was already hosting “Peter’s Program,” a Saturday morning children’s show on CBC radio. Although he was a voracious reader, Jennings dropped out of high school and worked as a bank teller for several years.
In the early 1960s, Jennings conducted interviews for CFJR radio, and hosted two shows on the CBC. He moved on to co-anchor CTV National News and was the first Canadian journalist in Dallas after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Jennings was covering the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., when the president of ABC News offered him a job at the network. He was only 25 years old when he accepted the position three months later. Within a year, Jennings became the anchorman of a news program that aired in direct competition with the CBS News show anchored by Walter Cronkite.
Jennings was a natural at the desk, but he yearned to gain more experience in the field. He became a foreign correspondent for the network, established the first American television news bureau in the Arab world and covered both the hostage situation at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games and South Africa’s struggle for equality in the 1970s and 1980s. He watched the Berlin Wall go up and was there 30 years later when it came down. Jennings also interviewed dozens of world leaders, such as Yasir Arafat, Anwar Sadat and the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1983, he began anchoring “World News Tonight,” a job he held for more than two decades. When terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept 11, 2001, he remained on the air for more than 12 consecutive hours.
In addition to his anchoring, Jennings covered a wide variety of issues in the prime-time specials “Peter Jennings Reporting.” He co-wrote “The Century” and “In Search of America” with Todd Brewster, and won numerous awards, including 16 Emmys, two George Foster Peabody Awards, a National Headliner Award, the Goldsmith Career Award and several Overseas Press Club Awards.
Jennings became a U.S. citizen in 2003 and was named a member of the Order of Canada earlier this month. When he announced he had lung cancer at the end of a broadcast last April, thousands of people flooded the ABC message board with expressions of support.
“He fought like a tiger, the way he fought for every story. I don’t think until the very end he was without hope. He really thought he was going to beat this,” Jennings’ ex-wife Kati Marton said.
The veteran newsman died on Aug. 7 of the disease. He was 67.
Full Coverage From ABC
Watch a Video Retrospective of Jennings’ Career
Watch a Tribute From USA Today

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