50 world-changing people -- and 3 nonhumans -- we lost in the 2010s

Astronauts, inventors and one very grumpy cat are among those who passed away this decade.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
11 min read

From Neil Armstrong to Sally Ride, David Bowie to Stan Lee, the world has said farewell to some incredible people in the last 10 years (and a few nonhumans as well). Rather than try to list them all, we've chosen a select group, leaning heavily on those who made a name for themselves in science, space, technology and related fields. They can never be replaced. They can only be remembered.

While we stuck to 50 (humans), go ahead and use the comments to tell us about others who died in the 2010s and are sorely missed.


Steve Jobs introduces the iPad

James Martin/CNET


Steve Jobs

The co-founder of Apple and chairman of Pixar accomplished a stunning amount in just 56 years, helping to ignite the personal computer revolution, popularizing the computer mouse, putting portable music players into millions of pockets and making the smartphone mainstream. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, 2011, almost two years after he opened the decade with the launch of the iPad.


Dennis Ritchie

Ritchie was an internationally renowned computer scientist who created the C programming language and made significant contributions to Unix. He was found dead on Oct. 12, 2011, at the age of 70, and had been in poor health for several years.


Carroll Shelby

The automotive designer and race car driver was 89 when he died of heart problems on May 10, 2012.

Ray Bradbury

Pioneering science-fiction author Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, among many other works. He died after a lengthy illness on June 5, 2012, at age 91.


Sally Ride in zero gravity aboard the space shuttle

National Archives and Records Administration

Sally Ride

In 1983, at age 32, she became the first American woman to travel into space, and she remains the youngest American astronaut to make that journey. Ride, who made a second trip into space in 1984, also on the space shuttle Challenger, died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, at age 61.

Neil Armstrong

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, uttering the famous words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." His previous trip into space was on Gemini 8 in 1966. Armstrong died on Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82 after bypass surgery.

Apollo 11 moon landing: Neil Armstrong's defining moment

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Aaron Swartz

Hacker and information activist Aaron Swartz died by suicide on Jan. 11, 2013, at the age of 26. Swartz co-founded the website Reddit and was involved in the development of Creative Commons, RSS and Y Combinator. At the time of his death, he was facing charges for his alleged role in making MIT academic journal articles public.


Aaron Swartz was 26 when he died by suicide.

Fred Benson/ Creative Commons: Flickr

Yvonne Brill

Rocket scientist Brill invented the hydrazine resistojet propulsion system, which helps keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits. She died of breast cancer complications on March 27, 2013, at age 88. Her New York Times obituary, now edited, caused a stir for leading with praise for her beef stroganoff.


President Obama awards Yvonne Brill the National Medal of Technology in 2011.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Roger Ebert

A writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, and became known to many for co-hosting a variety of film-review television shows with partner Gene Siskel. A large presence on social media Ebert famously stirred controversy with gamers by declaring that video games can never be art. He died of cancer on April 4, 2013, at age 70.

Ray Harryhausen

The pioneering special-effects artist is remembered for his original stop-motion animation in such films as Jason and the Argonauts. He died May 7, 2013, at age 92.

Douglas Engelbart

Computing pioneer Engelbart delivered what's been called the "mother of all demos," taking a San Francisco stage in 1968 to display a torrent of new technology. The demo included the world's first publicly seen computer mouse, plus hyperlinks, navigable windows, hypertext and more. He died on July 2, 2013, at age 88, after years spent living with Alzheimer's disease.


Amar Bose teaching at MIT


Amar Bose

Bose was the engineer and inventor who founded the audio company Bose while working as a professor at MIT. The company still uses a number of his patents. He died on July 12, 2013, at age 83.

Ray Dolby

Sound pioneer Dolby helped develop the videotape recorder and invented surround sound and the noise-reduction system known as Dolby NR. He died on Sept. 12, 2014, of leukemia, at age 80.


Ray Dolby changed how we hear sound.

Dolby Laboratories


Harold Ramis

An actor, producer, writer and director, Ramis was a creative force behind Ghostbusters, Caddyshack and Stripes, among other films. Before his film career, he was the original head writer of SCTV. He died on Feb. 24, 2014, at age 69 of complications from an autoimmune disease.

Stephanie Kwolek

Kwolek was the chemist who invented the virtually bulletproof fiber called Kevlar, now used in bulletproof vests, fiber-optic cables and many other products. She died at age 90 on June 18, 2014.

Leonard Nimoy: A look back at his fascinating life (pictures)

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Leonard Nimoy

The actor was best known for playing logical Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock on  Star Trek: The Original Series and in several Star Trek feature films. Nimoy died on Feb. 27, 2015, at age 83 from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Dave Goldberg

Goldberg, CEO of online poll company SurveyMonkey, died after a fall from a treadmill while on vacation in Mexico on May 1, 2015, though a heart arrhythmia may have contributed to his death. Goldberg was married to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer.


Dave Goldberg with his wife, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images


David Bowie

The iconic musician, songwriter, and actor experimented with numerous styles and identities over his six-decade career. One of his hits, Space Oddity, tells of a doomed astronaut, and was performed by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while on the International Space Station. Bowie died on Jan. 10, 2016, at age 69 of liver cancer.

David Bowie fans, you can't miss this space oddity of a show

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Alan Rickman

The classically trained actor played everyone from Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films to villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He died of pancreatic cancer on Jan. 14, 2016, at age 69.

Ray Tomlinson

Thank the late Ray Tomlinson the next time you send an email. He developed the system for sending electronic messages, and chose the @ sign as a separator between user and computer name. He died of a heart attack at age 74 on March 5, 2016.


Andy Grove, right, received a lifetime achievement award from the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2009.

James Martin/CNET

Andy Grove

After a childhood and youth spent under Nazi and Communist regimes, Andy Grove co-founded computer chip company Intel and co-created the microprocessor industry. Grove was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2000, and died on March 21, 2016, at age 79.

Bill Campbell

Campbell was dubbed The Coach because of his years spent mentoring and advising tech's biggest executives, including Apple's Steve Jobs and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. He died of cancer at age 75 on April 18, 2016.


Bill Campbell during a talk in 2011

Daniel Terdiman/CNET


The Minneapolis musician Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson) did it all in the music world. He was a songwriter, singer, musician, record producer, and, as his 1984 movie Purple Rain showed, actor and filmmaker. He didn't exactly embrace all modern technology, asking fans not to pull out phones at his concert (and scolding those who did) and holding off on allowing his music to be streamed for years. But he won a lifetime achievement Webby Award, supported the #YesWeCode initiative, and finally did let his music stream. The Purple One was mourned deeply when he died at age 57 on April 21, 2016, of an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Alvin Toffler

Toffler wrote the best-selling Future Shock in 1970, taking a prescient look at how society would deal with accelerating change. He died in his sleep at age 87 on June 27, 2016.

Kenny Baker

Baker, who was 3 feet, 8 inches tall, is best known for playing droid R2-D2 in the Star Wars films. Respiratory problems contributed to his death on Aug. 13, 2016, at age 81.

Joe Sutter


Joe Sutter in front of his creation


Dubbed the "father of the 747," Sutter led the Boeing engineering team that developed the world's first jumbo jet, and worked on other Boeing jet airliners like the 707 and 737. He died from complications of pneumonia on Aug. 30, 2016, at age 95.

Erich Bloch

Bloch, who was orphaned during the Holocaust, helped develop the IBM mainframe that changed the face of computing. He died on Nov. 25, 2016, at age 91 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

John Glenn

The astronaut and senator was the first American to orbit the earth, in 1962. He returned to space at age 77 in 1998, flying on the space shuttle Discovery. Glenn was 95 when he died on Dec. 8, 2016, with no cause of death disclosed.


In 1981, Vera Rubin became the second female astronomer to be admitted to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Image

Vera Rubin

Astronomer Rubin pioneered work that led to a theory of dark matter, which may make up 85% of the matter in the universe. She died on Dec. 25, 2016, of natural causes at age 88.

Princess Leia

Fisher as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars film.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Carrie Fisher

The actress is best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars film series, but she also had a noteworthy writing career that included both novels and screenplays. Fisher died suddenly at age 60 of cardiac arrest on Dec. 27, 2016, and her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, died one day later.


Eugene Cernan

With the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, astronaut Cernan became the 11th of 12 people to walk on the moon, and the last to leave footprints there. He died at age 82 on Jan. 16, 2017, after health issues.


Cernan was the 11th man to walk on the moon.


Richard Hatch

Hatch played Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica television series and Tom Zarek in the reimagined series. He died of pancreatic cancer on Feb. 7, 2017, at age 71.


Robert Taylor's Arpanet, a single computer network to link each project with the others, would evolve into what we now know as the internet.

Gardner Campbell via Wikipedia CC

Robert Taylor

Internet pioneer Taylor played vital roles in creating the internet, the personal computer and the mouse, among other innovations. He died of complications of Parkinson's disease on April 13, 2017, at age 85.

Chris Barr

Tech journalist pioneer Barr was CNET's first editor-in-chief, and also worked at Yahoo. He died of cancer on May 21, 2017, at age 64.


Chris Barr, Brian Cooley and CNET TV executive Bryan Glickman at the original CNET offices.

Brian Cooley/CNET

Roger Moore

The English actor played secret agent James Bond in seven films, and also acted in The Saint and other TV programs. He died in 2017 at age 89 of prostate cancer.

Watch this: Roger Moore's coolest 007 gadgets

Adam West

The actor was best known for his role as a debonair Bruce Wayne/Batman in the campy 1960s TV series. He died of leukemia at age 88 on June 9, 2017.


Ursula K. LeGuin

Best known for her speculative fiction, including science fiction and fantasy, LeGuin wrote more than 20 novels and 100 short stories. She died on Jan. 22, 2018, at age 88, likely of a heart attack, her son said.


Le Guin in 2001 at her home in Portland, Oregon

Beth Gwinn/Getty Images

John Perry Barlow

Barlow was an influential champion of an open internet and co-founded the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. He was also an early lyricist for The Grateful Dead. He died in his sleep at age 70 on Feb. 7, 2018.

Watch this: A brief history and a long legacy: Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Stephen Hawking

The theoretical physicist and author was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a young man. He used a motorized wheelchair and a device that gave him his distinctive computer-generated speech. He died on March 14, 2018, at age 76 after living with ALS for 50 years. He may be the only physicist to be known as a pop-culture celebrity, appearing on everything from The Simpsons to Star Trek : The Next Generation.

Raye Montague

As an African American woman who grew up in the segregated South, naval engineer Montague broke many barriers. She was the first person to design a ship using a computer system and she served as the first female program manager of ships in the history of the Navy. She died of congestive heart failure at age 83 on Oct. 10, 2018.


Paul Allen at Stratolaunch Systems in 2017

Paul G. Allen (@PaulGAllen)

Paul Allen

Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft , but the noted philanthropist also owned pro sports teams; financed the first private spacecraft, SpaceShipOne; and founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and numerous other ventures. Allen died on Oct. 15, 2018, at age 65 from complications related to non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Stan Lee

A comic-book pioneer, the legendary Lee led Marvel Comics and co-created many of its most famous characters, including Spider-Man. He famously made cameos in Marvel feature films. He died on Nov. 12, 2018, at age 95 of cardiac arrest.

Watch this: Marvel comic book legend Stan Lee dies at 95

Colin Kroll

Kroll was a co-founder of video service Vine and trivia app HQ Trivia. He died of an accidental drug overdose at age 34 on Dec. 16, 2018.

Nancy Roman

Known as the "Mother of the Hubble" for her work on the famed Hubble Space Telescope, Roman was an astronomer and early NASA executive. She died at age 93 on Dec. 25, 2018, after an illness. 


Peter Mayhew

Mayhew, who stood more than 7 feet tall, played the Wookiee Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. He died of a heart attack at age 74 on April 30, 2019.

Gary Burrell

Burrell co-founded Garmin, maker of GPS devices. He died of complications of Parkinson's disease on June 12, 2019, at age 81.

George Rosenkranz

Rosenkranz was a chemist who synthesized the key ingredient in the birth control pill, and also helped achieved the first practical synthesis of cortisone. He and his wife were also bridge champions. (In 1984, she was kidnapped during a tournament by another competitor and two other men. Rosenkranz dropped off a ransom of more than $1 million, she was released unharmed, and the men were caught and sent to prison.) Rosenkranz died at age 102 on June 23, 2019.

Lee Iacocca

One of America's best-known automakers, Iacocca started at Ford Motor, where he helped design such varied models as the Mustang, the Pinto and the . Also regarded as the father of the minivan, he oversaw the turnaround of the Chrysler corporation during the 1980s and appeared in the company's television commercials. His book, Iacocca: An Autobiography, was an enormous bestseller in 1984 and 1985. Iacocca died at age 94 on July 2, 2019, of complications from Parkinson's disease.

Rutger Hauer

Dutch actor Hauer is perhaps best known for playing replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner, for which he helped write the iconic "tears in rain" speech. He died at age 75 on July 29, 2019, after an unspecified illness.


Alexei Leonov (right) photographed with NASA astronaut Deke Slayton in the Soyuz spacecraft following the successful docking in 1975


Alexei Leonov

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who in 1965 became the first person to walk in space, died Oct. 11, 2019, at age 85, reportedly after a long illness. His last flight into space was in 1975 as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Beyond the humans

Along with those losses, the 2010s saw many famous nonhumans bid farewell, too. Here are three of them.


Koko was longtime friends with Dr. Penny Patterson.

The Gorilla Foundation

Koko the Gorilla

Koko, known for mastering sign language and befriending a kitten, died on June 19, 2018, at age 46. A western lowland gorilla born at the San Francisco Zoo, Koko became globally famous. She was featured in numerous documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic.

Mars Opportunity rover

NASA's Opportunity rover, nicknamed "Oppy," wandered the Martian surface for just over 15 years before ceasing communications. On June 10, 2018, it made its last contact with NASA. When it failed to respond to over 1,000 signals, the space agency declared its mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.

Grumpy Cat Visits The Broadway Cast of "Cats"

Grumpy Cat gave her face to many a meme.

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Grumpy Cat

The perpetually angry-looking cat known as Grumpy Cat loaned her furry face to a million memes. Her world of merchandise included calendars, stuffed animals, books and more, and she starred in a 2014 Lifetime movie, Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever. She died from complications of a urinary tract infection at age 7 on May 14, 2019.