IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-29-13

MIKHAIL KALASHNIKOV, CREATOR OF AK-47

Vladimir Vyatkin/Associated Press

Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov with a model of the AK-47 in 1997.

By 

Published: December 23, 2013

  • Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the arms designer credited by the Soviet Union with creating the AK-47, the first in a series of rifles and machine guns that would indelibly associate his name with modern war and become the most abundant firearms ever made, died on Monday in Izhevsk, the capital of the Russian republic of Udmurtia, where he lived. He was 94.

Multimedia

Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The ubiquitous AK-47 in use in Libya in 2011.

Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president, confirmed the death, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Born a peasant on the southern Siberian steppe, General Kalashnikov had little formal education and claimed to be a self-taught tinkerer who combined innate mechanical skills with the study of weapons to conceive of a rifle that achieved battlefield ubiquity.

His role in the rifle’s creation, and the attention showered on him by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, carried him from conscription in the Red Army to senior positions in the Soviet arms-manufacturing bureaucracy and ultimately to six terms on the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Union’s legislative body.

Tens of millions of Kalashnikov rifles have been manufactured. Their short barrels, steep front-sight posts and curved magazines made them a marker of conflict that has endured for decades. The weapons also became both Soviet and revolutionary symbols and widespread instruments of terrorism, child-soldiering and crime.

The general, who sometimes lamented the weapons’ unchecked distribution but took pride in having invented them and in their reputation for reliability, weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union to assume a public role as a folk hero and unequivocal Russian patriot.

A Soviet nostalgist, he also served as the unofficial arms ambassador of the revived Russian state. He used public appearances to try to cast the AK-47’s checkered legacy in a positive way and to complain that knockoffs were being manufactured illegally by former Soviet allies and cutting into Russian sales.

The weapon, he said, was designed to protect his motherland, not to be used by terrorists or thugs. “This is a weapon of defense,” he said. “It is not a weapon for offense.”

General Kalashnikov’s public life resulted from a secret competition to develop the Soviet infantry rifle for the Cold War. The result was the AK-47 — an abbreviation for “the automatic by Kalashnikov” followed by the year the competition ended.

General Kalashnikov, a senior sergeant at the time who had been injured in battle against German tanks, was credited with leading the design bureau that produced the AK-47 prototype. The Soviet Union began issuing a mass-produced version in 1949.

The true AK-47 was short-lived. It was followed in the 1950s by a modernized version, the A.K.M., which retained its predecessor’s underlying design while reducing its weight and manufacturing time.

Shorter than traditional infantry rifles and firing a cartridge midway between the power of a pistol and the standard rifle cartridges of the day, the Kalashnikov line was initially dismissed by American ordnance experts as a weapon of small consequence. It was not particularly accurate or well made, they said, and it lacked range and stopping power.

It cemented its place in martial history in the 1960s in Vietnam. There, a new American rifle, the M-16, experienced problems with corrosion and jamming in the jungles, while Kalashnikovs, carried by Vietcong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers, worked almost flawlessly.

By this time, in an effort to standardize infantry weapons among potential allies, the Soviet Union had exported the rifle’s specifications and its manufacturing technology to China, Egypt, North Korea and Warsaw Pact nations. Communist engineers would eventually share the manufacturing technology with other countries, including Iraq.

The design was incorporated into arms manufactured in Finland, Israel, South Africa and other nations. The result was a long line of derivatives and copies.

Because Kalashnikov rifles were principally made by secretive governments and often changed hands in nontransparent transfers, it is not known how many have been manufactured. Common estimates put production at 70 million to 100 million; either number would dwarf the production of any other gun.

The rifles eventually filled armories throughout Eastern Europe and Asia and spread from war to war, passing to Soviet allies and proxies, and to terrorists and criminals, aided by intelligence agencies and gray- and black-market sales. The United States became an active purchaser, arming anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s and indigenous Afghan and Iraqi forces in recent years.

Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The weapon being used in Syria.  General Kalashnikov was proud of the weapon but lamented its unchecked distribution

Pool photo by Natalia Kolesnikova, via Getty Images

Mikhail Kalashnikov in 2009.

General Kalashnikov’s bureau also used the A.K.M. design to develop machine guns for infantry squads, helicopter crews and vehicles. By the 1970s, the rifle’s design had become the basis for a new Soviet rifle, known as the AK-74, that fired a smaller and faster cartridge similar to that of the M-16. That rifle remains the standard weapon of the Russian Army.

The general often claimed that he never realized any profit from his work. But in his last years he urged interviewers not to portray him as poor, noting that he had a sizable apartment, a good car and a comfortable dacha on a lake near the factory where he had worked for decades.

Work and loyalty to country, he often suggested, were their own rewards. “I am told sometimes, ‘If you had lived in the West you would have been a multimillionaire long ago,’ ” he said. “There are other values.”

How essential the general was to creation of the Kalashnikov line has been subject to dispute. A post-Soviet account in the newspaper Pravda challenged his central role, asserting that two supervisors modified his weapon during field trials.

An amiable personality with a biography ideal for proletarian fable, he was given credit for their work, the newspaper claimed. The general disputed suggestions that the design was guided by others, but also said the rifle was the result of the collective that labored beside him.

The Kremlin embraced his version, although a careful reading of the official histories and General Kalashnikov’s many statements and memoirs shows that his accounts of his life, combat service and work repeatedly changed, raising questions about the veracity of the conventional accounts.

Mikhail Timofeyovich Kalashnikov was born in Kurya on Nov. 10, 1919. He was married twice, the second time to Ekaterina Kalashnikova, a technician in his design bureau. He is survived by a son from his first marriage, Viktor Kalashnikov, who is also an arms designer; a daughter from his second marriage, Elena Krasnovskaya; a stepdaughter, Nelya; and several grandchildren.

Later in life, he disapproved of anyone who he thought had hastened the Soviet Union’s downfall, or who had been unable to control the political and economic turbulence that followed. In memoirs and interviews, he was harshly critical of Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Boris N. Yeltsin.

To the end he was loyal to what he called Socialist ideals and the leaders who gave them shape, and seemed untroubled by the hardships endured by his family during the early years of Soviet rule. His family’s land and home had been seized during collectivization, and when he was a child the family was deported into the Siberian wilderness. His father died during their first Siberian winter, and one of his brothers labored for seven years as a prisoner digging the White Sea canal.

Still, General Kalashnikov spoke of his great respect for Lenin and Stalin alike. “I never knew him personally,” he said of Stalin, “and I regret this.”

SOURCE

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YUSEF LATEEF, INNOVATIVE JAZZ SAXOPHONIST AND FLUTIST

Alan Nahigian

Yusef Lateef in April. He sought inspriation well beyond the Western Hemisphere and anticipated cross-cultural fusions.

By  PETER KEEPNEWS

Published: December 24, 2013

  • Yusef Lateef, a jazz saxophonist and flutist who spent his career crossing musical boundaries, died on Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass., near Amherst. He was 93.

His death was announced on his website.

Mr. Lateef started out as a tenor saxophonist with a big tone and a bluesy style, not significantly more or less talented than numerous other saxophonists in the crowded jazz scene of the 1940s. He served a conventional jazz apprenticeship, working in the bands of Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie and others. But by the time he made his first records as a leader, in 1957, he had begun establishing a reputation as a decidedly unconventional musician.

He began expanding his instrumental palette by doubling on flute, by no means a common jazz instrument in those years. He later added oboe, bassoon and non-Western wind instruments like the shehnai and arghul. “My attempts to experiment with new instruments grew out of the monotony of hearing the same old sounds played by the same old horns,” he once told DownBeat magazine. “When I looked into those other cultures, I found that good instruments existed there.”

Those experiments led to an embrace of new influences. At a time when jazz musicians in the United States rarely sought inspiration any farther geographically than Latin America, Mr. Lateef looked well beyond the Western Hemisphere. Anticipating the cross-cultural fusions of later decades, he flavored his music with scales, drones and percussion effects borrowed from Asia and the Middle East. He played world music before world music had a name.

In later years he incorporated elements of contemporary concert music and composed symphonic and chamber works. African influences became more noticeable in his music when he spent four years studying and teaching in Nigeria in the early 1980s.

Mr. Lateef professed to find the word “jazz” limiting and degrading; he preferred “autophysiopsychic music,” a term he invented. He further distanced himself from the jazz mainstream in 1980 when he declared that he would no longer perform any place where alcohol was served. “Too much blood, sweat and tears have been spilled creating this music to play it where people are smoking, drinking and talking,” he explained to The Boston Globe in 1999.

Still, with its emphasis on melodic improvisation and rhythmic immediacy, his music was always recognizably jazz at its core. And as far afield as his music might roam, his repertoire usually included at least a few Tin Pan Alley standards and, especially, plenty of blues.

He was born on Oct. 9, 1920, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Many sources give his birth name as William Evans, the name under which he performed and recorded before converting to Islam in the late 1940s (he belonged to the reformist Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) and changing his name to Yusef Abdul Lateef. But according to Mr. Lateef’s website, he was born William Emanuel Huddleston.

When he was 5 his family moved to Detroit, where he went on to study saxophone at Miller High School. After spending most of the 1940s on the road as a sideman with various big bands, he returned to Detroit in 1950 to care for his ailing wife and ended up staying for a decade.

While in Detroit he became a popular and respected fixture on the local nightclub scene and a mentor to younger musicians. He also resumed his studies, taking courses in flute and composition at Wayne State University and later studying oboe as well.

In the later part of the decade he began traveling regularly from Detroit to the East Coast with his working band to record for the Savoy and Prestige labels. By 1960 he had settled in New York, where he worked with Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley and the Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji before forming his own quartet in 1964.

He was soon a bona fide jazz star, with successful albums on the Impulse and Atlantic labels and a busy touring schedule. But he also remained a student, and he eventually became a teacher as well.

He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and taught both there and at Borough of Manhattan Community College in the 1970s. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1975 (his dissertation: “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education”) and later taught there and elsewhere in New England.

The more he studied, the more ambitious Mr. Lateef grew as a composer. He recorded his seven-movement “Symphonic Blues Suite” in 1970 and his “African-American Epic Suite,” a four-part work for quintet and orchestra, two decades later. His album “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he played all the instruments via overdubbing, won a Grammy Award in 1988, though not in any of the jazz or classical categories; it was named best New Age performance. Mr. Lateef said at the time that, while he was grateful for the award, he didn’t know what New Age music was.

In 2010 he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Lateef is survived by his wife, Ayesha; a son, Yusef; a granddaughter; and several great-grandchildren. His first wife, Tahira, died before him, as did a son and a daughter.

His creative output was not limited to music. He painted, wrote poetry and published several books of fiction. He also ran his own record company, YAL, which he established in 1992.

He remained musically active until a few months before his death. In April he appeared at Roulette in Brooklyn in a program titled “Yusef Lateef: Celebrating 75 Years of Music,” performing with the percussionist Adam Rudolph and presenting the premieres of two works, one for string quartet and the other for piano.

SOURCE

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DR. ROBERT NEUWIRTH, A PIONEERING GYNECOLOGIST

By 

Published: December 29, 2013

Dr. Robert Neuwirth, a prominent gynecologist who developed minimally invasive techniques that helped many women avoid hysterectomies, died on Dec. 17 in Newark. He was 80.

RCL Photos

Dr. Robert Neuwirth

The cause was complications from a stroke, his son Michael said.

Dr. Neuwirth, who for much of his career was chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan as well as a professor at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, was both a physician and a tinkerer. He spent decades inventing, refining and revising his own techniques with the goal of finding simpler, more efficient ways to reduce painful and excessive menstrual bleeding.

One of the earliest methods he developed was to remove fibroids, the benign tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and can cause excessive bleeding.

In the past, surgeons who wanted to remove fibroids did so by removing the entire uterus. That procedure, called a hysterectomy, required a large abdominal incision and could carry increased risks of infection and complications. Women could not become pregnant after having a hysterectomy.

In the late 1960s, Dr. Neuwirth developed an alternative method that used a camera and tiny instruments, inserted through the vagina, to remove fibroids individually, leaving the uterus in place. The recovery period after the procedure, called an operative hysteroscopy, was much quicker, and many women were able to become pregnant afterward. By the 1980s, operative hysteroscopies were becoming common, and hundreds of thousands are now performed in the United States each year, many by doctors first taught by Dr. Neuwirth.

Dr. Neuwirth’s innovations often involved what is known as endometrial ablation, in which the tissue lining the uterus is deliberately reduced or destroyed to reduce heavy bleeding, called menorrhagia. Several years after popularizing hysteroscopy, he received a patent for a technique that involves inserting a balloon-like device into the uterus and filling it with hot water to essentially burn away part of the uterine wall. That procedure, which can be done in a doctor’s office, has also become commonplace.

In recent years, he was working on still another method, a chemical treatment that involves applying silver nitrate to parts of the uterine wall. One of his consistent goals was to create treatments that were relatively easy and inexpensive, in part so they could be used in countries with less sophisticated medical care.

“He didn’t want to make these complex,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, a longtime colleague who is director of the gynecology division at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. “He always wanted to keep it as simple as possible so that more people could do it.”

Robert Samuel Neuwirth was born on July 11, 1933, in Floral Park, N.Y., on Long Island.

He was the only child of Phyllis and Abraham, a physician. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Yale in 1955 and a medical degree from Yale in 1958; he completed his residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in 1962.

Twelve years later, he was named head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Luke’s and he stayed in that role until 1991, well after it had become St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. From 1977 to 2000 he was a professor at Columbia. He served as an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 1982 to 1988.

“He was a brilliant physician-scientist, pushing forward new knowledge, but he was also a brilliant physician educator,” said Dr. Frank A. Chervenak, a former student who is chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and at Weill Cornell Medical College.

In addition to his son Michael, survivors include four other children, Susan Neuwirth-Guerra, Jessica, Laura, and Alexander; and six grandchildren. He was married twice; both marriages ended in divorce. He lived in Tampa, Fla., and had a home in Englewood, N.J.

Dr. Neuwirth often did follow-up studies to test the long-term consequences and safety of his techniques. He studied menstrual function in women who had hysteroscopic surgery, and he tested whether ablation techniques could mask cancer. He found that they did not.

Dr. Alan DeCherney, the program director for reproductive biology and medicine at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health, was among several people who emphasized that Dr. Neuwirth was a modest man who was not inclined to professional networking or self-promotion.

“He didn’t sell his ideas, he just did his stuff,” Dr. DeCherney said. “People saw it was good and they picked it up.”

SOURCE

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ANDY GRANATELLI, REVVED BUSINESSES AND CARS

RacingOne/ISC Archives, via Getty Images

Andy Granatelli kissing his driver Mario Andretti after Andretti, using a backup car, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969.

By 

Published: December 29, 2013

  • Andy Granatelli, a colorful entrepreneur who turned STP oil treatment into a national institution and built racecars that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 and in 1973, died on Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 90.

Bob D’Olivo/Source Interlink Media, via Getty Images

Andy Granatelli, left, with the driver Parnelli Jones in 1967.

Mr. Granatelli appeared in commercials for STP oil treatment, and the company’s decals were everywhere.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his son Vince told The Associated Press.

In 1961, the Studebaker Packard Corporation acquired Chemical Compounds, a company with seven employees and only one product: STP (for scientifically treated petroleum). Mr. Granatelli was named the president and changed the company name to STP.

Within a decade, the company had 2,000 employees and was selling more than 100 million cans a year, and its annual sales of $2 million had grown to $100 million. STP decals, with the slogan “The Racer’s Edge,” were everywhere, both at racetracks and on the bumpers of family station wagons. Mr. Granatelli appeared in commercials for the product.

But in 1971, an article in Consumer Reports said STP oil treatment was actually “thick goo,” a worthless oil thickener. Mr. Granatelli denied that, but stock trading halted, and in two days, the stock, which had been at $58, fell to $38.

In 1974, STP was sold to Esmark Corporation for $135 million.

Mr. Granatelli was also involved in auto racing, and his innovations shook up the sport’s establishment. From 1961 to 1965, he entered cars in the Indianapolis 500, at that time America’s most celebrated race, with supercharged V-8 engines. Their horsepower reached 837, up from the conventional 450.

In 1967, he built and sponsored a radical new car with a turbine engine and 80 percent fewer parts than a conventional, piston-driven engine. Al Dean, a rival owner, said, “If they’re going to race airplanes, then let’s all race airplanes.”

Mr. Granatelli entered a turbine car in the Indianapolis 500 that year with Parnelli Jones driving. It led for 171 of the 200 laps and was leading by almost one lap with three laps left when a $6 transmission ball bearing broke. The car slowed to a stop.

The next year, the United States Auto Club, which made the race rules, ordered turbine power reduced by a third. Still, a Granatelli car with Joe Leonard driving was leading with eight laps to go when a tiny gear broke in the fuel-pump shaft. The crowd, which seemed to prefer the traditional cars, cheered. Then came more restrictions, and Mr. Granatelli gave up on the turbine car.

In his 1969 autobiography, “They Call Me Mr. 500,” he said: “We were rather badly handled in the turbine affair. Perhaps we tried to hurry tomorrow to a group of tradition-bound people who were frightened silly at the prospect of a new dawn.”

In 1969, Mario Andretti crashed Mr. Granatelli’s new four-wheel-drive Lotus in an Indianapolis 500 practice. Andretti drove a year-old backup car with a conventional engine in the race and won. In 1973, Mr. Granatelli won the race again with a car driven by Gordon Johncock.

Mr. Granatelli last entered a car at Indianapolis in 1974. He also sponsored Richard Petty in Nascar races, and from 1972 to 1981, Petty won four series championships and four Daytona 500s.

Anthony Granatelli was born March 18, 1923, in Dallas and grew up in the Chicago slums. He dropped out of school at 14 and worked in a grocery for $6 a week.

He and his two brothers — Vince and Joe — became auto mechanics who turned normal car engines into racing engines. When he was 20, he and his brothers bought a gas station in Chicago and became an instant success because four or five mechanics would work on a car at once. Soon, he started marketing auto parts.

After World War II, he promoted auto stunt shows featuring drivers who did rollover and end-over-end crashes and survived, a sort of Harlem Globetrotters performance with spark plugs.

In 1946, the three brothers drove an 11-year-old racecar from Chicago to Indianapolis. They slept in a garage because they could not afford hotel rooms. With Danny Kladis as their driver, they entered a car in the 500, which qualified in the back of the field, ran out of fuel and finished 21st.

By 1947, Mr. Granatelli was promoting stock-car and hot-rod races in the Midwest. In 1948, he tried to become an Indianapolis driver, using a helmet borrowed from his friend Bill France Sr., the founder of Nascar. He crashed in his qualifying run.

Mr. Granatelli’s first major business operation was Paxton Products, which made superchargers and was losing money. He bought the company in 1958, and in seven months, it was making a profit. In 1961, he sold the company to Studebaker and became a Studebaker vice president, chief engineer and driver.

His production cars set more than 400 world land-speed and endurance records. At 62, in a passenger car legal for street driving, he drove 241.731 miles per hour over the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Studebaker controlled 55 percent of STP’s stock, and in 1973, it terminated his STP contract because of differences with the board of directors. In 1976, Mr. Granatelli bought Tuneup Masters, an auto-parts distributor, for $300,000. In 1986, he sold it for $60 million.

He was elected to at least 24 automotive, racing and business halls of fame, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001. Besides his son Vince, survivors include his wife, Dolly, and another son, Anthony.

In 1969, Mr. Granatelli said of himself: “People say he’s flamboyant, he’s this, he’s that. That’s just me. I can’t help who I am. I was born supercharged.”

SOURCE

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DR. KENNETH C. EDELIN, PHYSICIAN AT CENTER OF LANDMARK ABORTION CASE

By 

Published: December 30, 2013

  • Dr. Kenneth C. Edelin, a Boston physician whose 1975 manslaughter conviction for performing a legal abortion was overturned on appeal in a landmark test of medical, legal, religious and political questions surrounding abortion in America, died on Monday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 74.

United Press International

Dr. Kenneth C. Edelin, left, with his lawyer in 1975, after Dr. Edelin’s sentencing. An all-white jury had convicted him of manslaughter.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Two years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, Dr. Edelin, a 35-year-old resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital, became the focus of a roiling national debate over crucial issues that had been left unresolved by the justices: When does life begin? Does an aborted fetus have rights? And what are a doctor’s often contradictory duties to the fetus and its mother?

Dr. Edelin (pronounced EE-da-lin) was charged with causing the death of the fetus of an unwed 17-year-old during an elective abortion in her sixth month of pregnancy. In a six-week trial in Boston that explored uncharted legal ground and made headlines across the country, Dr. Edelin, who was black, was vilified as a baby-killer and defended as a victim of racial and religious prejudice being tried for an action that had never been defined as a crime: killing a fetus that may or may not have been a “person,” and whose rights had never been specified by law.

The abortion, which took place in 1973, began as a routine procedure: the injection of a saline solution that usually causes uterine contractions and the expulsion of the fetus. But several tries were unsuccessful, and Dr. Edelin completed the abortion by a surgical procedure known as a hysterotomy — making a small incision in the uterus, like a cesarean section, and detaching the fetus from the placental wall by hand.

Prosecutors did not contest the legality of the abortion — Roe v. Wade had struck down anti-abortion laws in most states, including Massachusetts — but argued that Dr. Edelin, after ending the pregnancy, had deprived “a baby boy” of life-sustaining oxygen while it was still in the womb “being born.” A photo of the dead fetus preserved in formaldehyde was shown to the jurors, and some said they were “shaken” by it.

The defense called the photo inflammatory and objected repeatedly to the prosecution’s use of “fetus” and “baby” as interchangeable terms in a case it said was being politicized. Medical experts testified for the defense that the fetus, estimated to be 24 weeks old, was not viable enough to have survived outside the womb. Dr. Edelin’s lawyers contended that no “person” had even existed, let alone died.

But the all-white 12-member jury, which included nine men and 10 Roman Catholics, convicted Dr. Edelin of manslaughter. Some jurors said later that the photo of the dead fetus, whose face, they said, looked distorted as if in pain, had been decisive in their decision to vote guilty. An alternate juror also said after the verdict that jurors had made racial slurs against Dr. Edelin “more than once” before closing arguments.

The presiding judge, who had instructed the jury that it could convict only if it believed that the fetus was a viable person and that the doctor had acted recklessly, sentenced Dr. Edelin to one year of probation, although he could have imposed a maximum of 20 years in prison. Dr. Edelin kept his medical license and continued to practice at Boston City Hospital.

The verdict was hailed as a victory by anti-abortion groups and the Catholic hierarchy, which had long contended that life was sacred and began at conception. But it shocked and dismayed advocates of women’s rights, who called the case a precedent that could make doctors wary of performing abortions in the second trimester.

Dr. Edelin called the prosecution a “witch hunt” in a city where a huge Catholic population believed that fetuses were human beings with the rights of citizens, and that abortions were sacrilegious. The chief prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Newman A. Flanagan, was himself a Catholic who hoped to run for Suffolk County district attorney, and was widely admired for pursuing a case that might tighten restrictions and intimidate doctors who performed abortions.

Dr. Edelin appealed the verdict, and in 1976 the state’s highest judicial body, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, unanimously overturned the conviction and formally acquitted him.The appellate court held that a doctor could commit manslaughter only by ending the life of a fetus that was definitely alive outside the woman’s body. It rejected the prosecution theory that the fetus might have been alive in the uterus after being separated from the uterine wall, and was thus a “person” for purposes of the manslaughter law.

The ruling also clarified the definition of “life,” saying that it meant having heartbeats and respiration — more than “several transient cardiac transactions” and more than “fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.” Besides giving doctors protection by defining when a fetus is a live person, the ruling also protected them from criminal liability for failing to take “heroic measures” to save a fetus once it was outside a woman’s body.

Propelled to fame by the case, Dr. Edelin became a hero of the women’s movement, was named to prestigious posts in national health and human rights organizations, and went on to a successful medical and teaching career. He became known for his concern for indigent patients, and spoke often of the need for legal and safe abortions as a necessary alternative to the dangerous back-alley practices of the past.

“Nobody likes to do abortions,” Dr. Edelin told The New York Times in 1975, “but the least we can do is make it safe and humane.”

Kenneth Carlton Edelin was born in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1939, one of four children of Benedict Edelin, a postal worker, and the former Ruby Goodwin. Kenneth attended racially segregated Washington elementary schools and graduated from the Stockbridge School in western Massachusetts in 1957.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in 1961, he taught math and science for two years at the Stockbridge School and then attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, where he earned his medical degree in 1967.

In 1967, he married Ramona Hoage. They had two children, Kenneth Jr. and Kimberley, and later divorced. In 1978, he married Barbara Evans. They had two children, Joseph and Corrine. Besides his wife and four children, Dr. Edelin is survived by eight grandchildren; a brother, Milton; and a sister, Norma Edelin Johnson. Another brother, Robert, died in 1982.

Dr. Edelin was the uncle of Jeh C. Johnson, the current United States secretary of homeland security.

Dr. Edelin was in the Air Force from 1968 to 1971, rising to captain and serving a hospital internship at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. After his discharge, he held a medical residency at Boston City Hospital from 1971 to 1974. He became the hospital’s first black chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology in 1973, and that October — nine months after Roe v. Wade — performed the abortion that led to his arrest.

After his acquittal, Dr. Edelin became a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University and was chairman of the department for a decade until 1989. For years he was also director of ob-gyn at Boston City Hospital and managing director of the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, the largest provider of primary health services for Boston’s African-American community.

He was chairman of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1989 to 1992, and a director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and of the Guttmacher Institute, which promotes reproductive health. His case was the subject of a 1978 book, “The Baby in the Bottle,” by William A. Nolen, and a play, “As to the Meaning of Words,” by Mark Eichman, that was staged in New York in 1981.

Dr. Edelin, who lived in Sarasota and in Oak Bluffs, Mass., discontinued his medical practice some years ago and retired from teaching in 2006. He was the author of many articles on the prevention of teenage pregnancy and the perils of substance abuse during pregnancy. In 2007 he published a memoir, “Broken Justice: A True Story of Race, Sex and Revenge in a Boston Courtroom.”

SOURCE

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

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