From Einstein to Olivia Newton-John: Why this remarkable obituary has gone viral
Through the pure reaction of a journalist tasked with writing it.
When a journalist was tasked with an obituary, he initially met the errand with a sigh, but it quickly became clear the task was anything but banal.
The Times science writer Tom Whipple was writing about the remarkable life of Gustav Born – a man, he was told, who “had done something important to do with platelets”, the cell fragment involved in blood clotting.
Here’s what else he discovered about Gustav.
1. He saw the aftermath of the nuclear bomb dropped by the US on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War.
How did he become interested in platelets, I thought? Maybe I can eke an anecdote out of that. pic.twitter.com/idtENekzuM— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
2. His mother was good friends with Albert Einstein.
Anything of interest in his parentage to bulk things out? pic.twitter.com/A6CTIXfCf9— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
3. His father was a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist.
Einstein??! How on earth did they know Einstein? pic.twitter.com/2tKJhGMrVd— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
4. As a child in Nazi Germany, he threw an anti-Semitic kid out of a window for attacking a Jewish boy.
Any drama in his youth? (1) pic.twitter.com/CiAGD8GFx1— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
5. Einstein advised his family to flee Germany as he did.
Any drama in his youth? (2) pic.twitter.com/jnvRpdma0z— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
6. One of his father’s students was Robert Oppenheimer, co-creator of the atomic bomb.
Any other unlikely connections in his life? pic.twitter.com/8sEcg1fuyM— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
7. He researched under Howard Florey, who worked with Alexander Fleming to develop the antibiotic penicillin.
I suppose that’s the end of the famous people though. pic.twitter.com/5KGmi3aF8o— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
8. With musicians, a literary expert and film-maker among them, his children were also incredibly successful.
His poor children. How do you follow that? pic.twitter.com/aPZMuIDJtV— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
9. Oh, and Born’s niece is musician and actress Olivia Newton-John.
Right, I’m unsurprisable. pic.twitter.com/mLPNMFQUfk— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
10. And he’s related to a very famous writer and the man who began the Reformation.
Anything you left out because it just got a bit ludicrous?— Tom Whipple (@whippletom) April 27, 2018
Well, he’s also related to Ben Elton and some chap called Martin Luther.
Born’s work also, as Whipple was told, included work on platelets, which helped our understanding of how blood clots happen and saved hundreds of thousands of people at risk of stroke and heart attack.
I for one am very grateful for the worthy-but-not-at-all-dull Gustav Born. My son has a blood condition called ITP and without his platelet transfusions might not be with us. RIP sir.— Douglas Jackson (@Dougwriter) April 27, 2018
Wonderful, gripping, glorious thread. Thank you for this 😊 https://t.co/QdN8qfnsaD— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) April 27, 2018
Gustav Victor Rudolf Born died on April 16 2018, aged 96.