Other Notable Deaths


June 20, 2008


Probed Liberty attack

Ward Boston, a former Navy attorney who helped investigate the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 crewmen and years later said President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered that the assault be ruled an accident, has died.

Mr. Boston, a retired Navy captain from Coronado, Calif., died June 12 of complications from pneumonia at a San Diego-area hospital, said his wife, Emma Boston.

Mr. Boston was assigned as a legal adviser to a military board of inquiry investigating the attack on the Liberty, an electronic-intelligence-gathering ship that was cruising international waters off the Egyptian coast on June 8, 1967. Israeli planes and torpedo boats opened fire on the Liberty in the midst of the Israeli-Arab Six-Day War.

In addition to the 34 Americans killed, more than 170 were wounded.

Israel has long maintained that the attack was a case of mistaken identity, an explanation that the Johnson administration did not formally challenge. Israel claimed its forces thought the ship was an Egyptian vessel and apologized to the United States.

In 2002, Mr. Boston said Mr. Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert S. McNamara, told those heading the Navy's inquiry to "conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary," according to a signed affidavit.

Mr. Boston said he kept his silence because he was a military man, and "when orders come ... I follow them." He said he felt compelled to go public after the publication of the book The Liberty Incident, which concluded the attack was unintentional.


Journalist, founder of company

George R. Sample Jr., a journalist and a founder of what would become American Publishing Co., has died.

Mr. Sample died Wednesday of cardiac arrest at Corry Memorial Hospital, several months after he was injured in a fall at his home, said his son, George Sample III.

In the 1960s, Mr. Sample helped found what later became American Publishing Co., which was subsequently sold to Hollinger International. He served as vice chairman for Hollinger's American Publishing Co. and was credited for making improvements to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post.

Mr. Sample also created the family-run Sample News Group, which owned two newspapers in Maine and five newspapers in Pennsylvania, and was the longtime publisher of the Corry Journal in Pennsylvania, where he started working after graduating college.



Detlef Gromoll, a mathematician who helped lay the foundations for studying the abstract distortions of shapes in three or more dimensions, died May 31 in Stony Brook, N.Y. He was 70.

The cause was a brain hemorrhage, said his son Hans Christian.

Dr. Gromoll's research, including a fancifully named "soul theorem," formed some of the groundwork leading to the proof, in 2003, of the Poincare Conjecture, one of the most famous and intractable problems in mathematics, by Grigori Perelman, a Russian mathematician.

(The conjecture essentially says that any shape that does not have any holes and that fits within a finite space can be stretched and deformed into a sphere - although Henri Poincare was conjecturing about shapes and spheres of a higher dimension.)

In work from the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Gromoll and his collaborators looked at how knowledge about the local bending of a surface could provide information about the surface's global structure.

"Geometry became one of the most active and important areas" of mathematics, said H. Blaine Lawson, a colleague of Dr. Gromoll's at Stony Brook University, where Dr. Gromoll was a professor of mathematics. "Detlef is certainly one of the main people responsible for that."

In the soul theorem, published in 1972, Dr. Gromoll was studying the properties of certain surfaces that could have flat regions or curves like the outside of a sphere but not regions shaped like saddles. He found that the properties of such surfaces, infinite in extent and existing in any number of dimensions, could be deduced from a finite central core region.


Molecular biologist, philosopher

Gunther S. Stent, a University of California, Berkeley, molecular biologist who was a member of the key post-war group of scientists who solved the basic mysteries of the gene and how DNA functions, died June 12 at a retirement home in Haverford, Pa.

He died of a massive staph infection that he had been fighting for several months.

Possessed of a restless intellect, Dr. Stent changed career directions at least twice, first abandoning molecular biology for the study of neurology and behavior - becoming a leading expert on leeches in the process - then becoming a noted historian and philosopher of science.

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