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30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 16 October 2009

John Wilson presents the obituary series, analysing and celebrating the life stories of people who have recently died. The programme reflects on people of distinction and interest from many walks of life, some famous and some less well known.

  • Irving Penn

    American photographer who has died aged 92

    Irving Penn shot his first Vogue cover more than 65 years ago and was still working until his recent death at the age of 92. He created beautifully lit, intimate portraits of writers, artists and models as well as still life and cigarette ends. His subjects were often posed standing within a stark, angled backdrop to create a sense of tension and drama.

    John Wilson talks to photographer Annie Leibovitz and to Penn's long time friend and Manhattan gallery owner, Peter MacGill.

    Irving Penn was born 16 June 1917 and died 7 October 2009

  • Israel Gelfand

    Russian mathematician who has died aged 96

    Dr Israel Gelfand was one of the greatest mathematicians of the modern age who worked in almost every area of his field. His theories and formulae provided the groundwork for modern quantum physics and for many later applications, particularly in the field of medical imaging. As a Soviet scientist he was awarded the Order of Lenin three times and won many other accolades including the prestigious Wolf Prize, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel. His weekly seminars in Moscow were legendary among mathematicians. He moved to the United States in 1989 and – as visiting professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey – passed on his formidable knowledge to younger mathematicians.

    John Wilson hears from his colleague and fellow mathematician Professor Vladimir Retakh and Professor Ian Stewart of Warwick University.

    Israel Gelfand was born 2 September 1913 and died 5 October 2009

  • Stephen Gately

    Boyzone pop star who has died aged 33

    Stephen Gately was born into a working class family in Dublin. He acted and sang in local productions but his break came when he auditioned for a role in a new boy-band being put together by the pop producer Louis Walsh. With a succession of hit singles and more than 15 million albums sold, Boyzone became Ireland’s most successful pop export after U2. Then at the height of their success in 1999, Gately revealed that he was gay.

    John Wilson talks to pop star Boy George and to Boyzone’s A&R man, Colin Barlow.

    Stephen Gately was born 17 March 1976, and died 10 October 2009.

  • Barry Letts

    Actor, writer, TV producer and director who has died aged 84

    As a prolific actor, Barry Letts was rarely off screen in the early days of TV drama, starring in films such as The Cruel Sea. But it was as writer, director and producer on Dr Who that he secured his place in TV history. He is hailed by many fans of the series as its greatest hidden asset. It was Letts who cast Tom Baker as the Timelord, taking the character in a new, more eccentric, direction.

    Last Word speaks to the actor Tom Baker

    Barry Letts was born 26 March 1925 and died 9 October 2009

  • Patrick Hannan

    BBC broadcaster and journalist who has died aged 68.

    For more than 40 years, Patrick Hannan was the doyen of Welsh political journalism. He served as the BBC Wales correspondent and presented a wide variety of political and social affairs programmes, including the weekly series “Called To Order”. His erudition and wit were also admired on Radio 4 as a brilliant contestant and one half of the Welsh team on Round Britain Quiz.

    Marking his life are Patrick's quiz partner Peter Stead and BBC producer Paul Bajoria.

    Patrick Hannan was born 26 September 1941 and died 11 October 2009


Featured in...

  • Doctor Who

    A selection of programmes featuring people connected to the iconic time-travelling series


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    Last Word

    Radio 4’s obituary programme, marking the lives of significant figures who have died recently,…

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