Morning Newsletter

Notable deaths

Notable deaths from around the world reported in the last week:

Stanford R. Ovshinsky, 89, an iconoclastic, largely self-taught and commercially successful scientist who invented the nickel-metal hybrid battery and contributed to the development of a host of devices, including solar energy panels, flat-panel displays and rewritable compact discs, died Wednesday at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The cause was prostate cancer, his son Harvey said.

Placing Ovshinsky in "the league of genius inventors," The Economist magazine once titled an article about him "The Edison of Our Age?" If not quite that, he was certainly among the 20th century's most inventive breed of scientists who, like Edison, parlayed their ideas into practical commercial applications.

Michael Asher, 69, a dean of the conceptual art movement whose cerebral but playful work specialized in dismantling — often literally — the institutions that show art and that shape the way people think about it, died Oct. 14 at his home in Los Angeles.

Asher came of age in the 1960s with a wave of revolutionaries like Joseph Kosuth, Marcel Broodthaers, Hans Haacke and Dan Graham, who worked — for reasons that were political, philosophical and sometimes poetic — to push art more fully into the realm of ideas and acts and away from objects. One of his first works, at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969, involved simply rearranging the institute's movable interior walls that were used for exhibitions but leaving the walls empty.

Koji Wakamatsu, 76, a Japanese director and provocateur who flung sex, violence and politics on the screen in more than 100 films, died Wednesday in Tokyo, two weeks after he was named Asian filmmaker of the year at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. News reports said he died of injuries suffered when he was hit by a taxi in Tokyo on Oct. 12.

Wakamatsu, a self-taught director who never finished school, made some of his most admired films in his last years. Caterpillar (2010), an anti-war drama, tells the story of a highly sexualized marital struggle between a Japanese villager and her husband, a soldier returned from the Chinese-Japanese wars deaf and disfigured.

Eduard Y. Volodarsky, 71, a Russian screenwriter whose films are recognized classics today in Russia but whose efforts to present a picture of war on his own terms led the Soviet authorities to shelve many of his works for years, died in Moscow on Oct. 9.

Trial of the Road, which brought up the rough welcome many Soviet POWs returned to after World War II, was filmed in 1971 but not released until 1986, during the reformist years of perestroika. My Friend Ivan Lapshin, an unheroic portrayal of a local police officer that painted Soviet idealism in ironic tones, was shot in the early 1980s and also gathered dust until perestroika.

David S. Ware, 62, a powerful and contemplative jazz saxophonist whose career began in the early 1970s but who did not make a significant name for himself until 20 years later when he helped lead a resurgence of free jazz in New York, died Thursday in New Brunswick, N.J.

In 1995 a review of his album Cryptology received the lead slot in Rolling Stone, which rarely reviews jazz albums. In 2001, after the release of his album Corridors & Parallels, Gary Giddins of The Village Voice called Ware's quartet "the best small band in jazz today."

Sylvia Kristel, 60, a Dutch actress who became an international sex star after she played the title role in the 1974 erotic film Emmanuelle, died on Wednesday in the Netherlands.

Gart Westerhout, 85, a Dutch-born astronomer who gained international renown in the early 1950s when he helped chart the Milky Way galaxy with unprecedented precision, and who later created the astronomy program at the University of Maryland, died Oct. 14 at a senior living community in Catonsville, Md.

Kyle Bennett, 33, a three-time world champion bicycle motocross racer who represented the United States in the inaugural appearance of BMX racing in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, died in a one-car accident Oct. 14 near his home in Conroe, Texas.

John Hoffman, 62, who helped shape an international treaty in the 1980s to protect the ozone layer and later developed the Energy Star program, a widely recognized government stamp of approval for energy-efficient products, died Sept. 24 in Washington. The cause was complications after ulcer surgery, said his wife, Lucinda McConathy.

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