Magazine

Been and Gone: Farewell to the pacemaker pioneer and the Doritos doyen

Wilson Greatbatch
Image caption Wilson Greatbatch described himself as a tinkerer

Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - people of the past month.

The use of electricity to stimulate and regulate the heart has been understood since the 18th Century but it was Wilson Greatbatch who helped perfect the technology which made the modern pacemaker possible. Early attempts at creating such a device produced machines the size of a domestic fridge to which patients were connected with wires. It was not until the 1950s that the first pacemaker was inserted into a human. Even after extensive development such devices only ran for a few months before having to be replaced. Greatbatch, who described himself as a tinkerer, came up with a variation which, although not perfect, was a huge improvement on previous models. His most valuable contribution however was his work on a new lithium battery which, unlike previous power cells, could be left inside the patient for long periods of time. It is estimated that, across the globe, a million new pacemakers are fitted each year.

One group of products with a less positive effect on the human heart are snack foods, of which Doritos, the brainchild of Arch West, is one of the biggest sellers. The son of Scottish immigrants to the United States, West was holidaying with his family in California in 1961 when he pulled up at a roadside stall selling fried tortilla chips. Back in the laboratory of the food firm where he worked as a marketing executive, he produced the finished product which he called, Dorito from the Spanish for "little golden". Launched in 1966 Doritos became the favourite snack of couch potatoes across the US and beyond. The company developed a host of new flavours, including the enticingly named Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger. It was West who had the idea of displaying Doritos in supermarkets alongside jars of salsa, creating a food partnership that is recognised worldwide.

Photographer Robert Whitaker's two years with the Beatles produced some of the most striking images of the band. Whitaker discovered that the Fab Four were tired of conventionally posed pictures and open to experimental ideas. This resulted in images such as John Lennon with a dandelion in one eye and the US album cover showing the band clutching joints of meat and holding decapitated dolls, which was quickly banned in the States. Whitaker quit after the Beatles' final tour in 1966 and set up a studio with the artist Martin Sharp. It was Whitaker's photos of Cream that Sharp cut up and coloured with day-glo paint to create the cover for the band's Disraeli Gears album, the epitome of psychedelic art. Anxious not to be typecast as a pop photographer he later became a noted photo-journalist covering conflicts in the Middle East and Cambodia.

The success of the now ubiquitous e-book is at least partly because of the pioneering work of Michael S Hart, whose Project Gutenberg set out to make books available online. When Hart began experimenting in 1971, the internet was in its infancy and computers filled whole rooms with wires and drives. Hart had the vision to see that people would, one day, access information from computers and as a trial, copied the US Declaration of Independence and put it on his university's network for the few dozen people who then had access. Over the next 20 years he entered over 300 books, keeping Gutenberg alive with donations of equipment and the help of volunteers. He faced a hostile reaction from some academics and fell foul of copyright laws in many countries. However he ploughed on and by 2011 the project boasted more than 36,000 publications and was receiving around 50 new entries a week.

Image caption Gusty Spence was an important figure for many loyalists

Augustus "Gusty" Spence was a founder of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Northern Irish Protestant paramilitary group which saw itself as the main opposition to the Provisional IRA. Born in the Shankhill Road, his father was an army veteran who had joined the original Ulster Volunteers and Gusty himself served in the Royal Ulster Rifles where he rose to the rank of sergeant. In 1966 he led a UVF petrol bomb attack on a Catholic pub and was later charged with the shooting of a Catholic man and sentenced to life imprisonment. While in the Maze prison, Spence became convinced of the need for a political solution to the conflict and brokered a UVF ceasefire in 1973 which did not last. Disillusioned with the UVF he left and focused his efforts on the Progressive Unionist party and, in 2007, read the statement in which the UVF stated that its weapons had been put beyond the use of its members.

Among others who died in September were the co-creator of Dad's Army, Hi-De-Hi and Are You Being Served?, David Croft, and National Hunt trainer Ginger McCain who took Red Rum to three Grand National wins.