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From Einstein to Olivia Newton-John: Why this remarkable obituary has gone viral

Through the pure reaction of a journalist tasked with writing it.


Albert Einstein and Olivia Newton-John

Albert Einstein and Olivia Newton-John

Albert Einstein and Olivia Newton-John

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.

2. His mother was good friends with Albert Einstein.

3. His father was a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist.

4. As a child in Nazi Germany, he threw an anti-Semitic kid out of a window for attacking a Jewish boy.

5. Einstein advised his family to flee Germany as he did.

6. One of his father’s students was Robert Oppenheimer, co-creator of the atomic bomb.

7. He researched under Howard Florey, who worked with Alexander Fleming to develop the antibiotic penicillin.

8. With musicians, a literary expert and film-maker among them, his children were also incredibly successful.

9. Oh, and Born’s niece is musician and actress Olivia Newton-John.

10. And he’s related to a very famous writer and the man who began the Reformation.

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.

Gustav Victor Rudolf Born died on April 16 2018, aged 96.