|From: Jon Koplik||10/22/2020 1:37:54 AM|
|AP News -- Beetle armor gives clues to tougher planes ..........................|
Oct. 21, 2020
Can’t crush this: Beetle armor gives clues to tougher planes
1 of 2
This 2016 photo provided by the University of California, Irvine, shows a diabolical ironclad beetle, which can withstand being crushed by forces almost 40,000 times its body weight and are native to desert habitats in Southern California. Scientists say the armor of the seemingly indestructible beetle could offer clues for designing stronger planes and buildings. In a study published Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in the journal Nature, a group of scientists explains why the beetle is so squash-resistant. (Jesus Rivera, Kisailus Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab, University of California Irvine via AP)
By MARION RENAULT
NEW YORK (AP) -- It’s a beetle that can withstand bird pecks, animal stomps and even being rolled over by a Toyota Camry. Now scientists are studying what the bug’s crush-resistant shell could teach them about designing stronger planes and buildings.
“This beetle is super tough,” said Purdue University civil engineer Pablo Zavattieri, who was among a group of researchers that ran over the insect with a car as part of a new study.
So, how does the seemingly indestructible insect do it? The species -- aptly named diabolical ironclad beetle -- owes its might to an unusual armor that is layered and pieced together like a jigsaw, according to the study by Zavattieri and his colleagues published in Nature on Wednesday. And its design, they say, could help inspire more durable structures and vehicles.
To understand what gives the inch-long beetle its strength, researchers first tested how much squishing it could take. The species, which can be found in Southern California’s woodlands, withstood compression of about 39,000 times its own weight.
For a 200-pound man, that would be like surviving a 7.8-million-pound crush.
Other local beetle species shattered under one-third as much pressure.
Researchers then used electron microscopes and CT scans to examine the beetle’s exoskeleton and figure out what made it so strong.
As is often the case for flightless beetles, the species’ elytra -- a protective case that normally sheaths wings -- had strengthened and toughened over time. Up close , scientists realized this cover also benefited from special, jigsaw-like bindings and a layered architecture.
When compressed, they found the structure fractured slowly instead of snapping all at once.
“When you pull them apart,” Zavattieri said, “it doesn’t break catastrophically. It just deforms a little bit. That’s crucial for the beetle.”
It could also be useful for engineers who design aircrafts and other vehicles and buildings with a variety of materials such as steel, plastic and plaster. Currently, engineers rely on pins, bolts, welding and adhesives to hold everything together. But those techniques can be prone to degrading.
In the structure of the beetle’s shell, nature offers an “interesting and elegant” alternative, Zavattieri said.
Because the beetle-inspired design fractures in a gradual and predictable way, cracks could be more reliably inspected for safety, said Po-Yu Chen, an engineer at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University not involved in the research.
The beetle study is part of an $8 million project funded by the U.S. Air Force to explore how the biology of creatures such as mantis shrimp and bighorn sheep could help develop impact-resistant materials.
“We’re trying to go beyond what nature has done,” said study co-author David Kisailus, a materials scientist and engineer at the University of California, Irvine.
The research is the latest effort to borrow from the natural world to solve human problems, said Brown University evolutionary biologist Colin Donihue, who was not involved in the study. Velcro, for example, was inspired by the hook-like structure of plant burrs. Artificial adhesives took a page from super-clingy gecko feet.
Donihue said endless other traits found in nature could offer insight: “These are adaptations that have evolved over millennia.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education.
© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.
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|From: Jon Koplik||11/14/2020 6:20:20 PM|
|WSJ piece : video-calling / predicted in 1912 / in 1920s, AT&T began testing ................|
Nov. 13, 2020
The Overnight Business Boom That Took a Century
Why a global pandemic transformed videocalling from a technology most people didn’t like to the technology everybody had to have
AT&T displayed its Picturephone at the New York World's Fair in 1964. Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center
By Jason Zweig
To change people’s lives, companies don’t just need disruptive technology. Sometimes they need luck, too.
Consider videocalling. It was developed almost a century ago as a solution for a problem that companies identified but customers didn’t: the need for a machine that would permit face-to-face conversation at any distance.
For decades, dozens of companies kept trying to foist videocalling onto an unready and unwilling public. Then, like a bolt from the blue, the coronavirus thrust nearly everyone into isolation. Videocalling went from a technology most people didn’t like or want to the technology everybody had to have.
Underestimating how important luck can be in determining how fast customers will adopt an innovative technology helps explain the perennial tendency of business forecasters to get the future wrong.
“Before very long,” the engineering journal Cassier’s Magazine predicted in July 1912, “when the telephone call comes, there will appear with it the face of the person who is talking.” That would make it “unnecessary for many people to travel to and from their work at all,” minimizing “the great crush and crowding back and forth in our great cities.”
In the late 1920s, AT&T began testing two-way audio with partial video, called “ Ikonophone,” on local lines in New York. AT&T displayed a prototype at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, then tinkered with the concept for decades.
Finally, at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, AT&T displayed its first easily workable device, called the Picturephone, amid enormous hype. Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, inaugurated the service with a call from the White House to New York.
AT&T’s Picturephone made its World’s Fair debut amid enormous hype. Photo: AT&T Archives and History Center
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” featured a space-to-Earth video call from an AT&T-branded Picturephone booth onboard the Discovery One spacecraft. The call cost $1.70.
In 1969, Bell Labs executive Julius Molnar predicted that by 2000, “Picturephone will be the primary mode by which people will be communicating with one another.”
The technology, he proclaimed, “will enrich the daily lives of everybody” and “may in fact help solve many social problems.” By reducing the need for doing business in person, said Mr. Molnar, the Picturephone would alleviate pollution and urban overcrowding.
AT&T’s 1970 annual report said the company would expand Picturephone service to more than two dozen cities by 1975 and have 50,000 units in service.
“They thought they could determine the future and the rate they could make it happen,” says Jon Gertner, author of “The Idea Factory,” a history of AT&T’s Bell Labs, where the Picturephone was developed. “They were right about the future, but they were wrong about how fast they could make it happen.”
In 1964, AT&T installed Picturephone booths in Chicago, New York and Washington. Calls cost $16 to $27 per minute. In the first six months, 71 people tried it. In 1969, only three people paid to use it; the next year, none did.
Nevertheless, AT&T piloted the Picturephone for homes and businesses in Pittsburgh and Chicago in 1970. By 1972, after a year-and-a-half, only eight households in Pittsburgh remained willing to pay $160 a month. In Chicago, at $75 a month, only 46 homes kept one.
Video took up such bandwidth that long-distance calls were impossible. And so few people had a Picturephone there was almost nobody nearby they could use it with.
Furthermore, while people liked seeing the person at the other end, they didn’t much like being seen. As long ago as Plato’s “Republic,” thinkers have argued that being visible to others imposes a constraint on our behavior.
Getting accustomed not only to watching video but to being watched on video has taken the better part of a century.
A videophone played a crucial role in the 1925 silent movie ‘Up the Ladder.’ Photo: Everett Collection
The silent movie “ Up the Ladder,” from 1925, tells the story of the inventor of a fictitious videophone, who is cheating on his wife with her best friend. His wife calls her friend on the “Tele-Visionphone.” Scurrying out of the visual frame, the husband then sits where his reflection shows in a mirror, exposing the affair.
Such dreaded blunders still echo today, when children, pets and sexual indiscretion can disrupt videocalls and sometimes even derail a career.
Even so, companies kept pushing the technology, largely because they thought demand had to materialize sooner or later. It didn’t.
No one had cracked the chicken-and-egg problem: The more users a network has, the more valuable it becomes.
Even in 1990, after decades of development, only big organizations could afford what was then known as videoconferencing. Like AT&T’s customers in Pittsburgh more than 20 years earlier, they couldn’t use it successfully unless the people at the other end of the call happened to have a system from the same vendor.
Business executives hold a videoconference with a colleague in 1991. Photo: Richard Howard/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
As recently as 2008, videoconferencing setups still cost thousands of dollars a month, out of reach of households and many small businesses.
In the past couple decades, applications such as CU-SeeMe, Skype and FaceTime helped bring down costs and inch growing numbers of consumers toward acceptance.
But videocalling still hadn’t universally broken through. That only happened when the pandemic hit.
Look at Zoom Video Communications Inc. Thanks to the lifeline that its platform extended, “zooming” has quickly become almost as common a verb as “googling.”
“Covid made that breakthrough in people’s minds,” says Oded Gal, chief product officer at Zoom: “that voice and chat aren’t enough, that they feel they really want a visual connection to break the isolation.”
Whether videocalling will remain as popular when the isolation ends is an open question. This week, the announcement that an effective vaccine against Covid-19 could be within reach caused Zoom stock to drop 25% in two days.
Call it the market’s reminder of the wild swings between absurd optimism and rejection that surround any would-be technological marvel.
Still, videocalling’s proponents, just as they did a century ago, forecast a bright future. Citing this year’s boom in areas such as telemedicine, Mr. Gal thinks videochats will continue to bring people together in ways that wouldn’t have happened if Covid hadn’t created that openness to be on video.
The new technologies for video communication will give businesses and researchers “an ever expanding horizon.”
But those last words aren’t Mr. Gal’s. They come from an article a business forecaster wrote in 1970. His name: Alan Greenspan, future chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Maybe I should try zooming him so we can laugh about it together.
Write to Jason Zweig at email@example.com
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|From: Jon Koplik||11/21/2020 11:36:52 PM|
|Apparent decapitated body washed up on Florida beach actually a store mannequin ............|
Nov 18, 2020
An apparent decapitated body found washed up on a Florida beach was actually just a store mannequin
By Kelly McLaughlin
The mannequin found by a volunteer with Ocean Hour. Ocean Hour
A volunteer for Ocean Hour, a Florida based nonprofit that organizes beach cleanups across the state, found what appeared to be a decapitated dead body on a beach in the Florida Panhandle. It was later revealed that the body was actually a mannequin. The group shared pictures of the mannequin on Facebook on Monday.
Ocean Hour, a Florida based nonprofit that organizes beach cleanups across the state, shared news of what happened on Facebook on Monday.
The group said a volunteer named Kathleen was working to clean up a beach on Perdido Key in the Florida Panhandle when she saw what she believed to be a decapitated body.
"Another visitor had even called 911," Ocean Hour said on Facebook. "Upon further investigating, she realized it was a mannequin!"
The mannequin was covered in barnacles, so it was difficult to tell what it was at first glance.
But a closer look shows a plastic foot and hole where the mannequin's head would be.
"How long has she been out in the water collecting barnacles and sealife? Way too long!" the organization said. "We are glad it wasn't a real body!"
Copyright © 2020 Insider Inc.
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|From: Jon Koplik||12/23/2020 12:27:33 AM|
|WSJ -- Feeling Depressed ? Bacteria in Your Gut May Be to Blame ........................................|
Dec. 21, 2020
Feeling Depressed? Bacteria in Your Gut May Be to Blame
New studies point to the trillions of organisms in the human microbiome as playing an unexpectedly huge role in our well-being
By Robert Lee Hot
Scientists are exploring evidence that major depression may in part be a gut feeling, orchestrated by the microbiome -- trillions of microorganisms living in and around our bodies, which influence our health and well-being.
In a series of studies, researchers are discovering that the microbial menagerie living in our digestive tract may help regulate brain function, including mental health. Recent findings by scientists in the U.S., Europe and China are linking our feelings of stress, anxiety and severe depression to disturbances among hundreds of microbe species living in our gut that some researchers have started calling the psychobiome.
Conversely, other bacteria in the gut appear to produce some of the same substances used by doctors to treat depression and may naturally play a role in maintaining our emotional balance.
“The feeling of malaise, if you will, is often associated with gastrointestinal disorders,” said microbiologist Jack Gilbert at the University of California, San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who helped pioneer the study of the human gut microbiome. It is “chemically altering nerve signals going into the brain, which alter brain chemistry and therefore behavior, mood and, we believe, depression and anxiety.”
As evidence, some scientists have been able to infect mice and rats with mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, by transplanting stool samples, which contain gut microbes, from human patients into laboratory animals, several recent studies show. “When you give these mice the microbes from depression, they begin to behave in a depressive-like way,” said psychiatrist Julio Licinio at State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. These behavior changes in mice affect such things as appetite, weight gain and activities like swimming. Dr. Licinio studies the biology of depression and helped design some of the experiments. “It’s actually transmissible,” he said.
Until now, though, no one has been able to single out specific species of microbes linked to a mental illness. This month, an international research team for the first time identified dozens of species of gut microbes involved in depression by comparing patients diagnosed with the disorder to healthy people. These 47 species are a tiny fraction of the gut’s microbial diversity, which includes other single-celled organisms, thousands of virus species and fungi.
The new research by neuroscientist Peng Xie at China’s First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University and colleagues reveals a potential mechanism for a mental illness that affects an estimated 350 million people world-wide, several experts said. The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
Scientists are rushing to discover how such microbes interact with the human central nervous system, what signals they send to the brain and how that alters a person’s behavior or risk of mental illness, in hopes of new treatments and diets for maladies of the mind.
“The big race is on to understand what role all these play in various brain diseases,” said Emeran Mayer, a medical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles who studies the brain and gut microbiome and has written “The Mind-Gut Connection.” He adds, “if you already have genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s or major depression, this is a factor that could push it over the edge into a disease.”
Not so many years ago, the only microbes that attracted medical attention were germs that caused infections and diseases.
But indiscriminate use of antibiotics and other sanitation measures eliminated the harm that bacteria cause at the expense of the protection they can provide. Unintended health consequences ranged from increases in liver disease, Type 2 diabetes and asthma to preterm birth and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, according to a 2019 review in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and many other microbiology studies.
During the past decade, advances in low-cost, high-speed gene sequencing machines allowed researchers to study millions of microorganisms that normally can’t be grown in a laboratory. In these studies, researchers can determine whether genetic material belongs to bacteria though a biomarker called the 16s ribosomal RNA gene, which turns up only in microbes.
As a result, the study of the microbiome is one of the hottest new fields in medicine, with more than 15,000 scientific papers published last year alone. “There is a lot of excitement in the field of psychiatry now about this,” said John Cryan at the University College Cork in Ireland, who studies the microbiome and the neurobiology of stress.
Microbiologists calculate that the human gut contains more than 100 trillion microorganisms. Together they weigh about 5 pounds -- about as much as a big mango and slightly more than the human brain, according to the European Society for Neurogastroenterology and Motility.
Moreover, where the human genome carries some 22,000 protein-coding genes, researchers estimate that the human microbiome contributes some eight million unique protein-coding genes, or 360 times more bacterial genes than human genes, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project.
These microbes appear especially adaptable to changes in the environment, diet and the biochemistry of emotion. While no one yet knows exactly why, patients with various psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism-spectrum disorder have significant disruptions in the composition of their gut microbiome.
The microbes appear to be in almost constant communication with the brain directly by affecting nerve signals and indirectly through chemicals absorbed into the bloodstream, said Dr. Gilbert, who also is scientific adviser for a small microbiome company called Holobiome in Cambridge, Mass., that seeks new ways to treat depression, insomnia and other ailments.
Some common gut bacteria, for example, help generate neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which affects neural activity related to mood and memory. It’s commonly used to treat depression. Others make an amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid that naturally blocks some brain signals. It’s used in medication to relieve anxiety and improve mood.
“The bacteria are hijacking parts of systems within the body that we know are affecting emotional regulation,” Dr. Cryan said. “This has led us to the idea that by targeting microbes in the gut, we can have behavioral effects that are going to have impact on overall well-being.”
Write to Robert Lee Hotz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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|From: DaYooper||12/30/2020 5:22:38 PM|
Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on 'Gilligan's Island,' Dies at 8211:11 AM PST 12/30/2020 by Paul Bond
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She said her character on the sitcom "was molded by me, from me" and that the "values and principles" of the Kansas farm girl mirrored her own.Dawn Wells, the girl-next-door actress and former beauty queen who played the sweet Mary Ann Summers on the iconic CBS sitcom Gilligan's Island, died Wednesday morning. She was 82.
Wells died in Los Angeles of causes related to COVID-19, her publicist announced.
Other than Tina Louise, Wells was the last surviving member of the regular cast of the Sherwood Schwartz-created show, which featured three women and four men marooned on a desert island after their three-hour boat tour off the coast of Honolulu went inexplicably awry.
Airing amid the real-life tumult of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement and unrest on college campuses, viewers welcomed the corny sitcom as wholesome escapism. It earned solid ratings during its 98-episode run from 1964-67 and attracted new fans through decades of syndication.
The other castaways aboard the shipwrecked SS Minnow were Gilligan (Bob Denver); the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.); millionaire Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) and his wife, Lovey (Natalie Schafer); the Professor (Russell Johnson); and Hollywood starlet Ginger Grant (Louise).
While some of the cast — most notably Louise, who declined to appear in three made-for-TV Gilligan's Island movies from 1978-82 — expressed dismay over being "typecast," the angelic Wells embraced the show's enduring popularity and was grateful to the fans who, for years, sometimes obsessively, expressed their affinity for her and the character she played.
In August 2018, Wells took a fall and revealed that she was having difficulty paying for the two months of hospital rehabilitation that she needed. She said she was flabbergasted when folks raised $197,000 for her in a month after a friend created a GoFundMe page.
"I am amazed at the kindness and affection I have received," she told Fox News. "I don't know how this happened. I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids and no money."
Johnson attempted to explain the allure of Mary Ann Summers in his foreword for What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life, the 2014 book that the actress co-wrote with Steve Stinson.
"We love Mary Ann because she is the future, the hope of our world. The youngest of the castaways, Mary Ann has her entire life in front of her," he wrote. "Watching her unfailing good cheer, her optimism is never in question. We love her because we need her emotional support and her belief that all will turn out well … We love Mary Ann because of Dawn Wells."
READ MORE'Gilligan's Island' First Episode: THR's 1964 Review
Indeed, Schwartz gave the green-eyed Wells, who was 25 when Gilligan's Island bowed, more leeway than the other castmembers were granted, even though they had more impressive résumés as established actors.
"Every character on Gilligan's Island was given a broad 'stock' comedy role to fill — captain, mate, wealthy man, wealthy wife, professor, movie star — except me," Wells wrote in her book. "She was given a name and location — Kansas farm girl. I had to fill in the blanks. So, from the get-go, the Mary Ann character was different. She wasn't a Hollywood creation. She was molded by me, from me."
Wells said the "values and principles" of Mary Ann mirrored her own and are timeless: "I know this because the core of Mary Ann is really me. I mean, I built her from scratch … if you play a character long enough on stage or screen, I think your true self shows through."
Wells added during a 2008 interview with the Television Academy Foundation. "There hasn't been a Mary Ann on the air for I don't know how long. There hasn't been a good girl over 14, and Mary Ann was very much that," Wells said.
"The Mary Ann-Ginger issue is always there. You had to be a real man to understand Ginger, and Mary Ann would've gone to the prom with you and been your best friend. A lot of guys would come up to me and say, 'I married a Mary Ann.' She had the values."
Although the feminist movement, the pill and free love were all the rage during the comedy's original run, Schwartz eschewed sexual tension, but it was clear the Professor was smitten by the pig-tailed Mary Ann while the Skipper preferred the statuesque Ginger. Gilligan, meanwhile, was happiest keeping both squarely in the "friend" camp.
Dawn Elberta Wells was born in Reno, Nevada, on Oct. 18, 1938. Her father was a real estate developer and her mom a homemaker. "My parents divorced when I was four, but I did not grow up in a broken home," Wells wrote in her book. "I was raised by a very good mother and a great dad."
She said that in middle school she was chubby with severe acne, braces on her teeth and bad knees, the result of ballet lessons. Nevertheless, Wells noted that she was popular, proof "that the bell of the ball doesn't have to be a belle."
She eventually blossomed into the role of a belle, culminating with her being crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and competing in the 1960 Miss America pageant. That same year she graduated with a degree in theater arts from the University of Washington after initially studying chemistry.
Before she was Mary Ann, the 5-foot-4 Wells had a string of smaller roles on TV shows like Wagon Train, Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and Bonanza and, after Gilligan's Island was canceled, she appeared on The Wild Wild West, ALF and other series.
In 1992, she reprised her Mary Ann character on an episode of Baywatch and three years later joined Denver and Louise on the original Roseanne in a scene spoofing Gilligan's Island.
Wells appeared in about six dozen different stage plays but was less prolific on the big screen, though her star turn in the horror film The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), where she played a real-life murder victim, has become a cult classic. She starred in another horror film, Return to Boggy Creek (1977), after playing alongside Denver Pyle and Woody Strode in a 1975 Western, Winterhawk.
Wells also was a journalist for a brief time and hosted the Australian news show Midday, where she interviewed celebrities like Eddie Murphy, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.
In 2005, Wells was No. 50 on TV Guide's list of the "50 Sexiest Stars of All Time," right behind John Schneider, Alyssa Milano and David Cassidy, and that year she auctioned off the shorts and green-and-white checkered blouse she often wore on Gilligan's Island for $20,700.
In the early 2000s, Wells created Wishing Wells Collections, which makes clothes for elderly people with limited mobility. She also was the founder of the nonprofit Idaho Film and Television Institute and active in The Denver Foundation, the charitable organization founded by her fellow castaway before his death in 2005.
Wells married talent agent Larry Rosen in 1962, and the couple divorced five years later, just as Gilligan's Island was ending. Survivors include her stepsister, Weslee.
Donations in her name can be made to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald Tennessee, Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum or The Shambala Preserve outside Los Angeles.
"Mary Ann wasn't just a silly and sweet ingenue," Wells wrote in her book. "She was bright, fair-minded and reasonable, and I like to think that's what I brought to her. She was a little more of a Goody Two-shoes than I am."
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|To: DaYooper who wrote (44)||1/1/2021 12:50:01 AM|
|From: Jon Koplik|
|NYT -- Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ Dies at 82 ..............................|
Dec. 30, 2020
Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ Dies at 82
Her character on the ’60s sitcom radiated all-American wholesomeness and youthful charm. After her TV career cooled, she focused on theater acting.
By Anita Gates
Dawn Wells, the actress who radiated all-American wholesomeness, Midwestern practicality and a youthful naïve charm as the character Mary Ann on the hit 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died on Wednesday at a nursing home in Los Angeles. She was 82.
Her publicist, Harlan Boll, said the cause was related to Covid-19.
Debuting on CBS in 1964, “Gilligan’s Island” followed an unlikely septet of day trippers (on a “three-hour tour,” as the theme song explained) who ended up stranded on a desert island.
There, shipwrecked alongside a movie star (who spent most of her time in evening gowns), a science professor, a pompous, older rich couple, and two wacky crew members was Mary Ann Summers (Ms. Wells), a farm girl from Kansas who had won the trip in a local radio contest.
The character had a relatively scant back story it was said that she worked at the hardware store back home and had a boyfriend but Mary Ann’s persona alone made her memorable. Gingham blouses, short shorts, double ponytails and perky hair bows were all parts of her signature look.
The first version of the show’s theme song mentioned five of the characters “and the rest,” but the lyrics were soon changed to name the professor (Russell Johnson) and Mary Ann as well. The others in the cast were Bob Denver (Gilligan), Alan Hale Jr. (the Skipper), Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer (as the couple Thurston Howell III and Lovey Howell), and Tina Louise (as the actress, Ginger). Ms. Louise is the last surviving member of the original cast.
That the premise of “Gilligan’s Island” was pretty much implausible and its humor simplistic made no difference to the show’s millions of fans or its producers, who would discover in the years to come that they had spawned a cultural phenomenon.
Though “Gilligan’s Island” lasted only three seasons, canceled in 1967, it hardly slipped from the horizon. Endless reruns ensued, and the cast members had a series of encore performances. Ms. Wells, for one, reprised her role as Mary Ann in three reunion TV movies: “Rescue From Gilligan’s Island” (1978), “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island” (1979) and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” (1981).
In 1982, she did the voices of both her character and Ms. Louise’s movie star for “Gilligan’s Planet,” an animated spinoff series. And she went on to play Mary Ann in episodes of at least four other (unrelated) shows: “Alf” (1986), “Baywatch” (1989), “Herman’s Head” (1991) and “Meego” (1997). “Gilligan’s”-themed episodes had a certain camp value.
Even her career as an author related directly to the series. “Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook,” which included Skipper’s Coconut Pie, was published in 1993. “What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life,” a memoir she wrote with Steve Stinson, appeared in 2014.
Mary Ann’s advice in the book included this thought: “Failure builds character. What matters is what you do after you fail.” The San Francisco Book Review called the book “a worthwhile mix of classic values and sincerity.”
Asked decades later about her favorite “Gilligan’s Island” episodes, Ms. Wells mentioned “And Then There Were None,” which included a dream sequence in which she got to do a Cockney accent. She also cited “Up at Bat,” an episode in which Gilligan imagined that he had turned into Dracula.
“I loved being the old hag,” she said.
Dawn Elberta Wells was born in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 18, 1938, the only child of Joe Wesley Wells, a real estate developer, and Evelyn (Steinbrenner) Wells. Dawn majored in chemistry at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., then became interested in drama and went to the University of Washington in Seattle. She graduated in 1960 with a degree in theater arts and design, having taken some time off to win a state beauty title and compete in the 1960 Miss America pageant.
“Big deal,” she said in a 2016 interview with Forbes, making light of her Miss Nevada win. “There were only 10 women in the whole state at the time.”
For the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, her talent performance was a dramatic reading from Sophocles’ “Antigone.”
A 1961 episode of the drama “The Roaring Twenties” was her screen debut. When she was cast on “Gilligan’s Island,” she had appeared onscreen only about two dozen times, mostly in prime-time series, including “77 Sunset Strip” (multiple episodes), “Surfside Six,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Bonanza” and “Maverick.”
After her television career cooled down, Ms. Wells returned to her first love: theater, doing at least 100 productions nationwide. Her last television role was in 2019, as the voice of a supernatural dentist on the animated Netflix series “The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants.”
Her last onscreen appearance was in a 2018 episode of “Kaplan’s Korner,” about actors running an employment agency. Her only soap opera appearance was in a 2016 episode of “The Bold and the Beautiful,” in which she played a fashion buyer from a wealthy family.
Ms. Wells’s marriage in 1962 to Larry Rosen, a talent agent, ended in divorce in 1967, the same year “Gilligan’s Island” went off the air. She is survived by a stepsister, Weslee Wells.
Ms. Wells went on to operate charity-oriented businesses. She was a prominent supporter of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge developed for African and Asian elephants.
She also taught acting, creating the nonprofit Idaho Film and Television Institute while living at her ranch in the Teton Valley. But a screen career was never her childhood dream.
“I wanted to be a ballerina, then a chemist,” she recalled in the Forbes interview. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d go into genetic medicine.”
© 2020 The New York Times Company
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