Not since Noah's Ark has so much ridden on the fate of a single ewe. In 1996, when Scottish doctors created a baby sheep named Dolly from the cells of an adult, she became the first-ever successfully cloned mammal. Her--well, not birth--her emergence also sparked a fierce debate about ethics, biology and playing God. She died at 6--half the life expectancy for her species. But Dolly's doctors insisted her death was unrelated to the fact that she was a freak of nature--or of whatever. She simply caught a virus she couldn't shake, and had to be euthanized.
BOB HOPE, 100
He was such a lousy actor that Oscar night at his house was called Passover. (Laughter.) "But lemme tell ya..." We thought he'd never stop. Actually, for a radio guy, Bob Hope did fine in Hollywood. His "Road" pictures with Bing Crosby made him a movie star; radio and film made him a natural on TV. But his visits to U.S. troops from World War II through Gulf War I made him a legend. Those rat-a-tat one-liners got old before he did, but he milked laughs for 80 years without cuss words or cruelty: his favorite target was himself. ("I've performed for 12 presidents... and entertained six.") What he lacked in cool, he made up for in warmth. Wartime is always hard, but this time around, it's just a little harder.
STROM THURMOND, 100
Before becoming the oldest and longest-serving senator ever--48 years--he was governor of South Carolina and the Dixiecrat presidential candidate. The Senate was truly his life; he died only months after his retirement. Strom Thurmond will be remembered for his fights to keep blacks off the voting rolls and out of white public schools--and for the most recent news. His family finally acknowledged that the man who'd campaigned against "the social intermingling of the races" had fathered a child with a black teenage maid who worked in his family's home.
MADAME CHIANG KAI-SHEK, 105
In America she was once a dazzling symbol of China's future--modern, educated, pro-Western. In China she was a hated reminder of tyranny and corruption. Married to the Chinese Nationalist Party chief, she was his link to the United States--and its aid dollars. The couple squandered millions before being exiled to Taiwan in 1949.
ELIA KAZAN, 94
Whether by choice or not, Elia Kazan was an outsider all his life. The director of "On the Waterfront," "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "East of Eden" crafted powerful films about life on America's margins; his advocacy of the Method, with its channeling of raw emotion, revolutionized Hollywood acting. (His stars earned 21 Oscar nominations.) But at the height of his success, he spilled the names of communists he'd known to the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was derided and ostracized; even 40 years later, his lifetime-achievement Oscar met with protest. The controversy will burn long after his death. So will the work.
KATHARINE HEPBURN, 96
She didn't do coy. She wasn't a femme fatale. She wasn't about being pretty. And she didn't give a damn. She came to conquer, and she did: she earned 12 Oscar nominations, a record four wins--three of them after the age of 60--and became the most indomitable actress of her era, which still isn't over. Hepburn once said she wanted to "live like a man." Instead, she re-defined what it meant to live like a woman. She played queens, debutantes, athletes--and even actresses--but her greatest role was Katharine Hepburn. We could have watched her play it forever.
JOHNNY CASH, 71 JUNE CARTER CASH, 73
It was country music's best love story: the craggy Man in Black and a daughter of country's First Family, the legendary Carters. She stuck with him through drugs and degenerative illness; when she died, he was soon to follow. Johnny Cash's plain-as-dirt baritone gave his songs of hard luck and violence, love and faith, a directness and conviction that transcended their genre. June wasn't in his league as a singer --who was?--but "Ring of Fire," which she wrote about their scary early relationship, was one of his greatest hits, and one of country's great songs. The stark 1994 "American Recordings" helped a new generation hear Johnny Cash as a still-vital contemporary--but really, he always was.
EDWARD TELLER, 95
His admirers say the Father of the H-bomb helped keep the Soviet Union in check with Mutually Assured Destruction. Edward Teller's detractors call him a Strangeloveian obsessive, cheerleader for an arms race whose products could still destroy humanity. Early on, the Hungarian-born physicist helped America split the atom; when the U.S.S.R. set off its own fission bomb, he started work on fusion weapons: thermonuclear devices a thousand times more powerful. Teller's hatred of Soviet tyranny led him to promote fantastic antimissile technology; some of it became the basis for the Star Wars defense initiative.
GERTRUDE EDERLE, 98
Yes, Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel, but there was more to it than that. In 1926 the 20-year-old made it from Cape Gris-Nez, France, to Kingsdown, England--21 miles as the crow flies--in 14 hours and 31 minutes, more than two hours faster than any of the five men who'd done it before. Imagine what her time would have been if rough seas hadn't kept tossing her off course. She actually swam some 35 miles, keeping up her pace by singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."
FRED ROGERS, 74
The cardigan, white Keds and indelible jingle "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" became part of America's collective childhood thanks to PBS's "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." From 1968 to 2001, Fred Rogers (an ordained Presbyterian minister) invited kids into his tiny make-believe town to meet X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat. Rogers himself was the show's puppeteer, script- and songwriter. After 9/11, he came out of retirement to do a public-service announcement helping children deal with the not-so-perfect neighborhood outside their doors.
DONALD O'CONNOR, 78
Nobody hated the "Francis the Talking Mule" movies more than Donald O'Connor himself. The song-and-dance man with the flexibility of a Gumby and the buoyancy of a helium balloon never rose above second fiddle in Hollywood: sidekicking with Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain," belting with Ethel Merman in "There's No Business Like Show Business." But--a mule? Still, O'Connor never let the bitterness show. A second fiddle, maybe, but the man knew how to play.
SAM PHILLIPS, 80
He'd aspired to be a criminal lawyer, but Sam Phillips had to settle for becoming the most legendary producer in American music. In his Memphis storefront studio, Phillips was the first to record B. B. King and Howlin' Wolf, and put out what's been called the first rock-and-roll song: Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88." But Phillips was also looking for a white singer who sounded black; he found Elvis Presley. His tiny Sun Records also launched Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison... in other words, the second American Revolution.
AL HIRSCHFELD, 99
An institution at The New York Times for more than 75 years, the artist Al Hirschfeld drew nearly every ninaoteworthy performer to grace the Broadway stage or the silver screen. His pen-and-ink caricatures were immediately recogninazable and conferred upon their subject a status that arguably no writer or photographer could. But he was perhaps best known for his whimsy: he hid the name of his daughter in every drawing. Pity we can't recall her niname.
LENI RIEFENSTAHL, 101
She was a vastly promising director when Hitler hired Leni Riefenstahlto film a 1934 Nazi rally at Nuremberg. "Triumph of the Will"--the greatest propaganda film ever--destroyed her. After four years in prison she became a photographer, swearing to the end she didn't know the evil she'd estheticized. Whatever. Except for one underwater documentary, she never directed again.
CELIA CRUZ, 77
The Queen of Salsa was Cuba's premier diva throughout the '50s, before she defected to the United States during a tour of Mexico in 1960. She never went back again. In the States, she worked with such top Latin bandleaders as Tito Puente; eventually she recorded more than 70 albums. Fans loved her powerhouse vocals, sassy attitude (she wouldn't divulge her age) and Technicolor wigs. Beginning in the '70s, interest in their heritage among younger Latinos gave Cruz a new prominence; her last CD won a Grammy in 2002.
GREGORY PECK, 87
Atticus Finch, he once said, "will be the first line in my obituary." And sure enough. His Oscar-winning role in "To Kill a Mockingbird"--a white Southern lawyer defending a black man on trial for rape--made Gregory Peck America's white-collar hero with a blue-collar heart. Atticus's square-chinned nobility would define Peck's career, on screen and off. He made Richard Nixon's enemies list, and Ronald Reagan didn't like him much, but for most Americans he remains a symbol of what we aspire to, for our country and ourselves: Honor. Humility. Courage. Atticus.
DAVID BRINKLEY, 82
He and NBC News co-anchor Chet Huntley both disliked that sign-off: "Good night, Chet." "Good night, David." But it brought a note of comfort to the generally grim news of the 1960s--and it was great TV. David Brinkley's lean visage and his slightly wry, slightly North Carolina-accented delivery was something new: an authoritative but cool presence that ideally suited the medium. So did his writing: crisp, clear and with a sense of when to shut up and let the footage speak for itself. "Brinkley," said Reuven Frank, his boss at NBC, "writes silence better than anyone else I know." He'd think this was tacky, but--good night, David.
IDI AMIN, 78
During the 1970s, this telegenic, sadistic tyrant horrified the world by systematically murdering 300,000 of Uganda's 12 million people, expelling tens of thousands of others and turning the coffers of his once thriving African nation into a personal piggy bank. A career soldier, Idi Amin seized control of the Army and police force and, eventually, the country. Once in power, he quashed dissent by publicly executing his critics: cabinet ministers, diplomats and church leaders were shot point-blank or forced to bludgeon one another to death before a horrified citizenry. He fled Uganda in 1979 and wound up living in seclusion in Saudi Arabia.
ALTHEA GIBSON, 76
She learned to play tennis in the most unlikely of places: the blacktop in front of her childhood home on West 143d Street in Harlem, which police had cordoned off as a play area for local kids. It took talent, will--and this stroke of luck--for a poor black girl in a segregated world to become a champion at one of the whitest, most privileged of sports. In 1957, Althea Gibson became the first black person, male or female, to win at Wimbledon. Shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth II as she accepted the trophy, Gibson said, "At last, at last." And she won again the next year.
DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN, 76
In 1980, Daniel Patrick Moynihan said the decade's defining event would be the end of the Soviet Union. Prescient as usual. The witty, tweedy Harvard professor was an ambassador under Nixon and Ford before becoming a Democratic senator from New York--yet found time to write such influential books as "Beyond the Melting Pot." Moynihan was early in arguing that family breakup slowed black advancement; his ideas crossed partisan lines, prompting the debate he so loved--and often the action, too.
JOHN RITTER, 54
Critics never cared for the hit sitcom "Three's Company," but none of them ever blamed John Ritter. As Jack Tripper, the closeted heterosexual posing as gay so his landlord would let him shack up with two female roommates, Ritter soared above the show's lowbrow instincts, singlehandedly turning it into one of TV's top series from 1977 to 1984. Another actor would've spent the rest of his career trying to escape such a creation, but Ritter was so versatile that his work in such indie films as "Sling Blade," and as TV's most dependable guest star ( "Ally McBeal"), bore no trace of Tripper. At the time of his sudden death, Ritter was again carrying a sitcom, ABC's "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."
ROBERT C. ATKINS, 72
Dieting once meant Melba toast and celery. Then, in 1972, the best-selling "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution" made steak and eggs America's weight-loss plan of choice--though the cardiologist battled the medical establishment, which warned against his no-starch, high-fat plan. To date, 30 million people have lost 200 million pounds, and even onetime critics order burgers--hold the bun.
IN A TIME OF WAR
As we went to press, 460 American troops had died in Iraq this past year, along with 85 soldiers from other nations, 53 of them from the United Kingdom and 17 from Italy. The civilian death toll in Iraq may have approached 10,000; in Baghdad alone, more than 2,000 occupation-related deaths have been reported since May 1, the official end of hostilities. These are the numbers--and we know they don't quite register. How could they possibly? But each one had a name, though some may never be known. Each one had a story, of incalculable worth, though some may never be told.