Pancreatic Cancer is the 8th leading cause of Cancer death in the world. This past week the media reported on two men who died from the disease. Barring alien abduction there is very little chance anyone reading this does not know about one of the men who succumbed to the disease. Of course I am referring to Steve Jobs, but you knew that already.
Since word of his death first broke news and social networks have been packed with nothing else. At the peak of the postings an estimated 10 000 tweets were being sent per second. This breaks the previous record set by the earth shatteringly important announcement of Beyoncé’s pregnancy. At last count more than 2.8 million tweets had been sent relating to the death of the digital mogul with up to 5.9% of all tweets sent on Thursday containing the word ‘Apple’.
Since there are already an estimated 500 000 articles eulogising Mr. Jobs I’ll refrain from telling you all about the man who made it possible to keep an entire music library in your pocket, or to study ornithology by launching birds at three little pigs. Indeed Steve was many of the wonderful things people are saying about him. He was a visionary. He was a pioneer. He was the leader of the most profitable computer company in history.
It is true that the iPod, iPhone and iPad have had a massive impact on the way we use electronic devices and how we interact with the world on a daily basis. Some have said that Jobs changed the world, as if we wouldn’t have digital music players, smart phones and tablet computers without him. Perhaps the form of certain gadgets would be different but there is little doubt that most of the technology which exists today would still have been invented, with or without one man.
Regardless of whether you believe that Steve Jobs succeeded at Apple solely to make you happy in your skinny jeans or simply to make shareholders very rich, there is something very wrong with the way in which society has reacted to his death compared to that of the other man who died of Pancreatic Cancer.
Ralph Steinman, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine, passed away largely unnoticed mere days before being awarded the honour. Steinman discovered and named ‘dendritic cells’ which form part of the innate immune system and are integral in identifying antigens. Effectively these cells recognise markers of a foreign substance in the body, from bacteria to viruses to poisons, and act as a biological trumpeter ensuring mobilisation of a cellular military force.
Much of the research Professor Steinman conducted aimed to understand and even manipulate the way the body’s immune system attacked foreign invaders. He researched HIV/AIDS this way and even treated his own Cancer ultimately prolonging his life. His discoveries will be instrumental for centuries and perhaps millennia because they form a building block on which the fight and cure of any disease is based.
In times past society made heroes out of people who stepped on the moon, transplanted hearts and surmised theories on relativity. Today our heroes are pregnant singers and Forbes Billionaires. The untimely death of Jobs and Steinman should give us one final gift from two talented people – perspective.