Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

December 19, 2003

Jenifer Estess, 40, a theater producer who set up a foundation for research into Lou Gehrig's disease after she learned she had it, died of the illness Tuesday at her New York City apartment. She had become completely paralyzed and lost the ability to breathe.

Her disease, a degenerative disorder of the nerve cells that control muscle movement, was diagnosed in 1997. Technically known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, it affects 30,000 Americans and is usually fatal in two to five years. Joined by three sisters and calling on her experience as a producer, she raised more than $17 million and brought together scientists from different laboratories to cooperate in the search for a cure. The foundation paid for investigations into genetics, stem cells, gene therapy, accelerated drug testing and disease pathways.

Miss Estess, the subject of a Sun profile in 2001, chose the ALS laboratory at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to be a chief recipient of funds. Project A.L.S. has staged benefits involving show business celebrities in New York and Los Angeles, and last year it arranged for Project A.L.S. Day at 14 Major League Baseball stadiums. At each event, a celebrity read Gehrig's famous farewell speech, in which he declared to Yankee fans that he considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."

Miss Estess helped found the Nantucket Film Festival and New York Women's Film Festival, and helped start a New York theater company, Naked Angels. In 2001, she produced a movie for CBS television called Jenifer that told her story, and was named Glamour magazine's woman of the year.

Elizabeth Bates, 56, a leading expert on the way infants develop language and an outspoken critic of the theory that humans are endowed at birth with a language module, died of pancreatic cancer Sunday at her home in San Diego.

Dr. Bates was a professor of cognitive science and director of the Center for Research in Language at the University of California, San Diego, and was known for her very public stance in the debate on nature vs. nurture -- that is, how much of human behavior is genetic and how much is learned from the environment.

She thought that all development, including the acquisition of language, rested on a foundation of general mental abilities. For example, humans drive cars not because their brains contain car-driving modules but by using various visual, motor and focusing skills, which are parts of the brain's wider repertoire.

Language is special and unique, Dr. Bates said, but its specialness is derived from the interaction of bits and pieces in the brain that get recruited for many purposes. Defining language as "a new machine built out of old parts," she spent her career working out the details of that concept.

In putting forth her ideas, she criticized the theories of linguist Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleague Steven Pinker, the psychology professor, now at Harvard. They contend that infants have a high degree of early knowledge and that development is more a matter of unfolding inborn traits.

John A. Mulheren Jr., 54, a charismatic Wall Street trader during the 1980s and chief executive of one of the New York Stock Exchange's largest specialist firms, died Monday at his home in Rumson, N.J. The cause was seizures that resulted in a heart attack, a family spokesman said.

During the mergers and acquisitions boom of the 1980s, Mr. Mulheren was part of a small circle of highly successful traders, including Robert E. Rubin of Goldman, Sachs, that made big bets on the shares of companies in takeover battles.

Mr. Mulheren became one of the most proficient arbitrage traders on Wall Street, making as much as $25 million in 1986, according to published reports.

Two years later, however, his fortunes changed as he was implicated in an insider trading scandal. He had been linked to the trading activities of Ivan F. Boesky, the speculator who would be convicted on insider trading charges. Mr. Mulheren was found guilty of securities fraud, but the case was later overturned.

He switched from trading to management in the early 1990s, presiding over the growth of Bear Wagner Specialists, which today represents 16 percent of trading activity on the New York exchange, ranking fourth among specialist firms.

In 2001, because of his charitable work related to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who as U.S. attorney for New York in the 1980s had prosecuted Mr. Mulheren, named him an honorary police commissioner.

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