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10 People Who Sacrificed Big for Humanity

6. Japanese seniors who volunteered to clean up the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

On March 11, 2011, there was a major earthquake that disabled the power supply and the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, which resulted in a massive nuclear accident. About 750 workers left because of the increased risk of radiation exposure. With the decrease in the number of workers, retired Japanese seniors came together to help clean up the disaster at the Fukushima power station.

The retired Japanese seniors called themselves the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, and they constituted of retired engineers and other professionals over the age of 60. The group had over 200 members who were willing to volunteer, stating that the younger generation should not be facing the dangers of the radiation.

Their reasoning was that even if they were exposed to the radiation, the resulting side effect will occur only after 20-30 years, and therefore they had a lesser chance of getting cancer, unlike the youngsters whose life may be cut short by the extreme radiation exposure. (1, 2)

7. The suicide squad of Chernobyl Disaster.

Chernobyl suicide squad
Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bespalov and Boris Baranov. Image credits: Moiarussia.ru

The Chernobyl Disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1984, in Ukrainian SSR. The explosion occurred in the No.4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The melting core could have steamed up five million gallons of water underneath the reactor and caused a steam explosion.

To prevent this second explosion, the water underneath the reactor had to be drained. Though firefighters tried to drain it out using specialized hose pipes, it was not enough. The valve had to be opened to release the water effectively.

Senior engineer Valeri Bespalov, the mechanical engineer, Alexei Ananenko and shift supervisor, Boris Baranov were the three men who volunteered to go into the plant and open the sluice gates. They had to wade through knee-high, radioactive waters and knew that the mission could result in their deaths.

Finding the valves in a room filled with numerous pipes and valves was challenging, but they pulled through. The outcome of this mission would decide the fate of millions of people as the resulting fallout would have covered half of Europe. Their heroism led the trio to be called as the “Suicide Squad.” (1, 2)

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8. Steven Pruitt, the man behind one-third of Wikipedia’s content.

Steven Pruitt
Steven Pruitt. Image credits: CBS News

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that is available for free online. Volunteers around the world can create and edit articles on Wikipedia. One such volunteer is Steven Pruitt, who has edited over 2.5 million articles on Wikipedia, which roughly makes up to one-third of the total number of articles available on it. Besides this, he has also written over 31,000 original articles. And most importantly, he does all this work for free.

According to Wikimedia Foundation, he is one of the most prolific contributors to the English version of the digital encyclopedia. His work is based out of his own interest in history, and he believes in making knowledge and information free. He spends around three hours a day on researching, editing and writing besides having a full-time job as a contractor for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (1, 2)

9. Frederick Banting, who invented insulin.

Sir Frederick Grant Banting
Sir Frederick Grant Banting. Image credits: Bantinghousenhsc.wordpress.com

Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas by the islets of Langerhans, and it helps regulate glucose in the body. The lack of the hormone might cause increased levels of sugar in the blood resulting in diabetes. Frederick Banting, a Canadian scientist, was the one who figured out a way to extract insulin from the pancreas before its destruction.

A process called “ligature” causes the deterioration of the cells of the pancreas that secrete trypsin which breaks down insulin. Once the trypsin-secreting cells died, insulin could be extracted from the islets of Langerhans.

Banting and his team began conducting experiments on dogs whose pancreas were removed and noted that when the insulin was injected back into the dog, its sugar levels went back to normal. Using this, he extracted insulin from pork and beef, which then became the commercial source for insulin until genetically engineered bacteria were introduced in the 20th century.

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When the discovery was successful, Banting and his co-inventors sold the patent rights for insulin to The University of Toronto for $1, claiming that the discovery belonged to the world and that it was unethical to profit from something that could save lives. This allowed insulin to be commercially available to the public to treat diabetes. (1, 2, 3)

10. Todd Beamer, the hero who tackled the 9/11 hijackers from crashing the Flight 93 into Washington DC.

Todd Beamer
Todd Beamer. Image credits: NPS.gov, Michael Foran/Wikimedia

Todd Beamer was a young man who boarded United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. When he realized the flight had been hijacked, he called the GTE telephone operator, the company that provides the telephone service on United Airlines flights, and informed them about the hijack.

He and the other passengers soon learned from their calls to their families that their flight was one of four that had been turned into terrorist guided missiles and that two of them had already crashed into the World Trade Center. It was soon apparent that their flight was also going to crash, either the White House or the Capitol when it was rerouted towards Washington, D.C.

Knowing full well that they would not make it out of it alive, they decided to do something. Beamer and the other passengers decided to attack the hijackers and take control of the plane. Once he relayed his plans to the telephone operator, he recited the Lord’s Prayer followed by a “Let’s roll!” after which there were scuffles and screams before the line went dead. The plane crashed into a cornfield killing all 44 people on board including the hijackers, but no one on the surface was injured. (1, 2)

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