Born: 23 December 1908
Died: 13 July 2002 (complications from surgery)
Birthplace: Mardin, Ottoman Empire (now Turkey)
Best known as: Photographer of the famous grumpy Churchill portraitYousuf Karsh's dramatic glimpses of public figures like Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway made him one of the most famous portrait photographers of the 20th century. Karsh and his family fled Armenia when he was 15 years old. He ended up in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, where he learned photography and gained access to prominent national and international figures just as World War II was beginning. He worked mostly in black and white, with a large 8x10 view camera, often catching his subjects in surprisingly intimate or pensive moments. (His famous 1941 portrait of a glowering Churchill was snapped after Karsh snatched a cigar from between the prime minister's lips.) Many of his portraits were printed in Life magazine, giving Karsh even wider exposure. Among his subjects were Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, John F. Kennedy, Pablo Picasso and George Bernard Shaw.
Singer / Humanitarian
Born: 21 July 1948
Birthplace: London, England
Best known as: 1970s pop singer Cat Stevens
Name at birth: Stephen Demetre Georgiou
Yusuf Islam recorded pop songs under the name Cat Stevens between 1966 and 1978, including the 1971 hits "Morning Has Broken" and "Peace Train." After attending art school, he recorded a single as Cat Stevens in 1966, and followed in 1967 with an album, Matthew & Son. He quickly gained a reputation as a talented songwriter and had his first hits in the United Kingdom. His popularity spread to the United States and he had a string of hits, including "Wild World" (1970), "Moonshadow" (1971) and "Oh Very Young" (1974). His albums became top sellers, sometimes even without the benefit of a hit single. They include Tea for the Tillerman (1970), Catch Bull at Four (1972) and Buddha and the Chocolate Box (1974). He stopped recording and performing after converting to Islam in 1978, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and devoted his time to raising a family and being active in Britain's Islamic community. As Yusuf Islam he has made several recordings, mostly educational and pertaining to Islam. In 2004 he released Majikat, a DVD of his 1976 multimedia concert tour, and in 2006 he released an album of new material, An Other Cup.
Poet / Translator
Born: 30 September 1927
Birthplace: New York, New York
Best known as: The author of the collection The Carrier of LaddersWilliam Stanley Merwin is the 17th Poet Laureate of the United States and winner of the Pulitzer prize for poetry, for The Carrier of Ladders (1970) and The Shadow of Sirius (2009). A graduate of Princeton University (1948), he took the advice of poet Ezra Pound and studied romance languages while working on mostly verse plays. Merwin spent most of the 1950s and '60s in Europe (with some time in Cambridge, Massachusetts), writing, tutoring and lecturing, and making a name for himself as a poet with collections like A Mask for Janus (1952), The Drunk in the Furnace (1960) and The Lice (1967). Since then he's won just about every major poetry award, as well as the National Book Award (2005, for Migration: New & Selected Poems). Merwin went to Maui in the 1970s to study Zen buddhism, and he's been living on an environmentally-friendly farm ever since, writing meditative, sometimes surreal, poems and occasionally making trips off the island to lecture. An accomplished translator of poets from Dante to Pablo Neruda, Merwin has also published 8 works of prose, several verse plays and two memoirs. His books of poetry include The Compass Flower (1977), Opening the Hand (1983) and The River Sound (1999).