Biologist Carl Woese has died of pancreatic cancer at age 84:
Carl and his colleagues wrote two papers published in 1977 that overturned a universally held assumption about the basic structure of the tree of life. They reported that the microbes now known as Archaea were as distinct from bacteria as plants and animals are. Prior to this finding, scientists had grouped Archaea together with bacteria, and asserted that the tree of life had two main branches – the bacteria (which they called prokarya), and everything else (the eukarya). The new discovery added Archaea as a third main branch of the evolutionary family tree.
Woese was one of those guys who overturned a paradigm and became a founder of the succeeding paradigm. And he lived long enough to see the “dogma” he helped establish start to be undermined by new information, like recent suggestions that the common ancestor of all eukaryotes was likely Archaean, thus suggesting that having two main branches of life really does work as a model.
If there’s a better definition of success in a scientific career, I don’t know it.