While legendary mathematicians, famous actors and world-altering activists permanently etch their names into history, at the end of the day, they are human beings just like us. And they’re not immune to seeing their lives end much earlier than anticipated.
Redditors have recently been discussing notable individuals whose lives were cut short before they were able to reach their full potential. Whether they died at 16 or 46, these people had plans to accomplish even more. So enjoy scrolling through this list and remembering the legacies of these individuals, and keep reading to find a conversation with pop culture expert and host of Ready to Be Petty, Torry!
My wife died two weeks ago…at 42. She was the prettiest, smartest, and nicest women I have ever met. She dedicated her life to helping those less fortunate than us. I was the luckiest man in the world for 17 years.
There’s no way to know. My aunt had 2 babies that died shortly after birth. I had a classmate who needed a heart transplant, but couldn’t get one, and died in junior high. My sister had a classmate who died of cancer.
I used to live about 3 blocks from Caltech. Every year 1-2 kids there buckle under pressure and hang themselves.
It’s easy I guess to say “Jim Morrison would’ve released more great music!” “Edgar Allan Poe would’ve revolutionized literature!” but there are *so many* people who die so young that there’s just no way to know what they’d have been capable of.
To learn more about celebrities who should have lived to see many more birthdays, we reached out to pop culture expert and host of the Ready to Be Petty podcast, Torry. She was kind enough to have a chat with Bored Panda and share about some of the celebrities she believes never got to reach their full potential.
The first star Torry noted was Heath Ledger. “Heath could do it all, from comedies, to rom-coms, to darker, serious movies,” the host says. “I think he would have been considered one of ‘the greats’ and honored with many Academy Awards.”
Alan Turing. died for the worst f*****g reason and what happened to him was a travesty.
DimesOHoolihan: Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts. He accepted hormone treatment with DES, a procedure commonly referred to as chemical castration, as an alternative to prison. Turing died on 7 June 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a s****de, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.
The next celebrity Torry noted was Aaliyah. “Aaliyah’s style, presence, and music were unique and drew the attention of fans all over the world,” she explained. “If she were alive, I could see her releasing a Greatest Hits album or producing music behind the scenes with up and coming arts.”
Amy Winehouse was another who tragically didn’t get to reach her full potential. “I don’t think we’ve seen another voice like Amy’s, and so many people were impacted by the music she was able to release,” Torry shared.
And we can’t forget Selena. “Selena was a global pop star, but I think her star power could have been HUGE and lasted over many years,” the host added.
Probably the greatest mathematician that pushed modern mathematics at galactic speed, died only aged 32
On the other hand, some celebrities are fortunate enough to reach their full potential, and Torry believes that Jennifer Lopez is a great example.
“Jennifer’s new movie This Is Me… Now, which is inspired by her life and career, is coming up this February,” the host says. “She’s done so much with her career – from music, dance, movies, TV, skincare, and so much more!”
My husband. He was special to me yes, but he was important to his patients. We all know about the ER docs that are dismissive, condescending, and are just all around jerks. My husband, even at his most burnt out wasn’t like that. He was the type you pray you get. The one that will actually listen, who will figure out what’s going on. It didn’t matter if you were female, a POC, trans, or any combination. He was listening. He was going to treat your pain. He wasn’t going to send you home until he had an answer. I knew this about him, but it was confirmed by the patients that left messages on his obituary page. Sure he did the usual emergency med life saving things. But a car accident is easy. There’s no argument about whether or not a patient is hurt. It’s assumed something is wrong. What made him special to the world is proof you were sick meant only your word that you were. He tried to teach the providers around them. Never made people feel dumb for not knowing things. He wanted people to be motivated to do better and bullying or dismissive behavior doesn’t help with that.
When he died I died too. Our children also lost their lives. We’re nothing without him. But the rest of the world? There are countless people that will now die just as scared and alone as I am because he’s not there to help.
We were also curious which celebrities Torry is excited to see grow and reach their full potential in the future. “Rachel Zegler – She now has two successful big box office movies under her belt,” the host shared. “I could see her starring in more movies that showcase her singing voice. Broadway shows turned movies are hot right now, and she’s the perfect person to be cast.”
Torry also says we should keep an eye on Amelia Dimoldenberg’s career. “Amelia has carved out a new space for broadcasting/comedic interviews for herself. She was just named the official correspondent for the Oscars,” she explained. “Her YouTube show is getting bigger guests, and many other content creators are trying to mimic her style of comedy.”
If you’d like to hear more of Torry’s thoughts on celebrity gossip and pop culture, be sure to check out Ready to Be Petty!
I’m going historical. Prince Arthur Tudor. He died aged 15, leaving his younger brother Henry to become Henry VIII of England. Arthur was apparently more of a scholar than anything else, compared to his brother who was more into the idea of being a warrior king. Had Arthur survived and gone on to become King, then global history would have taken a very different turn
Thomas Sankara was only 37 when he was assassinated. He brought through huge reforms in Burkina Faso in such a short space of time. He increased literacy massively and improved women’s rights, also brought through vaccination programs and improved infrastructure. None of which was popular with the French…
Douglas Adams. His ability to create the most absurd possible sentences and situations and make them as funny as they are… amazing writer.
A British Physicist
One of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. Developed Moseley’s Law that helped to define the atomic number.
The reason why nobody has heard of him is because he had his brains blown out by a sniper at Gallipoli when he was 27 years old.
Isaac Asimov wrote about him: “in view of what [Moseley] might still have accomplished … his death might well have been the most costly single death of the War to mankind generally.”
He’s the reason why countries keep their scientists and researchers from being drafted or allowed to fight anymore.
While he wasn’t terribly young, I’d say his true potential life was cut in half. Imagine what music will never be or where it could have gone had he lived a longer life.
Jimi Hendrix hadn’t even reached his full potential when he died.
Yet he is still regarded by many to be the best guitarist of all time.
Imagine if he had lived.
Otis Redding. Based on his energy, the fact that after a short career with an amazing voice, he came back from surgery with a better one, recorded one of the great songs of the 20th century, and then immediately died.
Maryam Mirzakhani died at 40 of cancer. She was Iranian. In 2014 Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Mathematics, which is awarded by the International Congress of Mathematicians.
“The award recognized her sophisticated and original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces such as spheres.”
My son died 19 days ago at 43 yrs old. It was totally unexpected. He was recovering from a routine surgery and he developed a blood clot 9 days after. He will be missed every moment. I have no words.
Terry Fox. He died at 22 after running halfway across Canada with one leg and stricken with lung cancer. Imagine what he could have done in life without cancer holding him back.
Buddy Holly. Of course, he already wrote some fantastic songs, but man would it be a treat to see his songwriting in the ’60s!
Could end up being the same or he could have grown. But it’s those what-ifs!
Whimsycottt: Bruce Lee brought Hong Kong Cinema to the West. He is the guy who popularized martial arts movies and made being Chinese (and East Asians) more accepted when most Asians in Hollywood at the time were either nerds or Fu Manchus. The feminization of Asian Men by Hollywood still exists, but we can at least point to Bruce Lee as the turning point where Asian men can be more than that. This man singlehandedly bridged the gap between the East and West with his movies, and inspired an entire genre of films.
He also helped modernized/paved the way for MMA, and his style of fighting (Jeet Kune Do) was based more on practicality rather than flashines, and being open to different types of styles instead of sticking to a single, rigid one.
I’m forever grateful for him, and I think its a damn shame that we lost him so young.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He was an incredibly gifted actor and I would be genuinely excited when a film with him came out to see what he would do. There should have been a lot more anticipatory moments like that.
Kurt Cobain! I can’t believe this isn’t higher. Imagine if he lived another 30 years, how much beautiful music he could have made.
Amy Winehouse is up there.
High-strungHousewife: Her material may not have been to your liking but her contralto voice was widely regarded as exceptional.
“She had a strong control of her voice, with a clear and precise pitch and a wide range [3 octaves] that allowed her to tackle both high and low notes with ease.”
Prince. He is/was larger than life, despite his stature. He was a musical genius, and frankly after he left us s**t got weird.
Jonathon Larson. He died in 1996 at the age of 35 just before his musical, Rent, came out. It’s a shame that he worked so hard for his opportunity and he couldn’t see what an impact he had.
Biggest thing is? His death could have easily been prevented. He was misdiagnosed at two separate occasions leading up to his death.
Do you ever listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas and wonder why you don’t hear more amazing music by Vince Guaraldi? He died of a heart attack at the young age of 47.
Stevie Ray Vaughan.
He really got his s**t together and seemed to really be in a good place career wise and in his personal life.
Cliff Burton – the bassist of Metallica. He taught all the other bandmates musical theory, harmonies and all that stuff, because he was the only one that was actually musically trained in school.
He died in a bus accident when they were on tour. He and Kirk (still the lead guitarist in the band) were choosing who would sleep on top of the bunk bed, it was supposed to be Kirk, but Cliff insisted that he’d sleep on top. When the accident happened, he was thrown out, the bus lost traction and it landed right on top of him.
The sad part is it would’ve been either him or Kirk
Listened to an interview Wil Wheaton did where he talked about Stand By Me and how everyone on the set knew River was going to be a huge star.
Louis Braille. Alexander the Great died precisely when he should have; Mozart’s later career probably wouldn’t have been so promising; but Louis Braille had the makings of a true innovator.
Amy Winehouse would have probably be on par with or surpassed Adele at some point.
She moved to the tropics to get sober, but the record labels weren’t digging the experimental reggae-inspired stuff she was recording. As with many people who relapse, her body couldn’t take the dosage required to get her high again.
Part of me thinks if she’s made it one more year she would have been fine. I also think her being 27 played a huge role since she got to join the legendary “club”. She definitely had genius-level talent with music. I feel like Lady Gaga and her would have put out an amazing album together. Amy is probably the only celebrity death where I was very very sad.
Christina Grimmie. Incredibly talented vocalist, gunned down after a concert by a presumably obsessed fan. I still think that her wanting to remain independent instead of joining a particular record label may have had something to do with it, but her assailant wiped his computers, so we’ll never know for sure