Kennewick Man

The dead have power to create controversy in the world of the living. One example involves a 9,500 year-old skeleton, one of the best-preserved early human fossils found in North America, whose discovery triggered a bitter debate over who owns America's past.

Kevorkian, Jack

The pathologist Jack Kevorkian became the central figure in the physician-assisted death controversy in the United States, a controversy that has had ripple effects throughout the world. Born in 1928, Kevorkian was the son of refugees who escaped the Turkish massacre of Armenians in 1915.

Kierkegaard, Søren

Søren Kierkegaard was born on May 5, 1813, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and died there on November 4, 1855. Kierkegaard is recognized to have, in the nineteenth-century, reawakened philosophy to its basic mystery, that the human being exists in the anticipation of death, and that the subjectivity of death anxiety is the source of consciousness and spirituality.


Kronos figures in Greek mythology both as an ogre and as the king whose reign was the Golden Age. The Romans equated him with Saturn.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth

Elisabeth Kübler was born on July 8, 1926, the first of three daughters born that day to a middle class family in Zurich, Switzerland. In her autobiography The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying (1997), Kübler-Ross commented: "For me, being a triplet was a nightmare.

Last Words

Last words have long been a subject of fascination for several reasons. The person about to die is sometimes regarded as having special access to the mysteries of death and afterlife, as well as to spirit visitors such as angels or ancestors.

Lawn Garden Cemeteries

In contrast to the graveyards that immigrants to North America initially created, the picturesque gardens early and mid-nineteenth century Americans fashioned provided a remarkable set of sites where citizens of means could bury their friends and find respite from the rush of daily life in a parklike setting. Yet, these rural cemeteries also quickly proved to be extremely expensive places for the dead and the living.


Lazarus (in Greek, Lazaros or Eleazaros, meaning "God hath helped") is the name of a person in the New Testament of the Bible who was resurrected in one of Jesus' most spectacular miracles and certainly the most poignant one. According solely to the Gospel of John (John 11–12), when their brother Lazarus fell deathly ill, Mary and Martha of Bethany send for their friend Jesus.

Lessons from the Dying

The major lesson for the living to learn from people facing the end of life is how growth can come through loss. Those who open up to these crises have much to teach.

Life Events

The product of stress and coping research is the concept of a life event which refers to changes in an individual's life that are likely to have an impact on subsequent behavior. Such major changes can be either negative, such as death of a close family member, or positive, such as marriage.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy refers to the number of years that people in a given country or population can expect to live. Conceptually, life expectancy and longevity are identical; the difference between them lies in measurement issues.

Life Support System

The phrase "life support" refers to the medications and equipment used to keep people alive in medical situations. These people have one or more failing organs or organ systems, and would not be able to survive without assistance.

Lincoln in the National Memory

At 10:30 P.M. on April 14, 1865, while Major Henry Reed Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln watched the third act of Our American Cousin from the state box in John Ford's theater, twenty-six-year-old John Wilkes Booth entered the box, aimed his derringer, and discharged a shot that struck the left side of the president's head.

Literature for Adults

As scholars often note, human beings can never accurately report on the experience of death, they can only imagine it. Thus it should come as no surprise that death has played such a significant role in literature, where humans use the imagination to reflect, shape, and understand their world.

Literature for Children

A historical overview of children's literature, especially fairy tales, reflects society's attitudes toward children and death. Most readers are unaware that every fairy tale has its own history, and many of them originated in the seventeenth century as oral, adult entertainment.

Living Will

A living will is a written document that declares what life-sustaining medical interventions a person wants if she becomes terminally ill with little or no hope of recovery and is unable to communicate her wishes. It was created in response to the increasing ability of medical technology to prolong dying, frequently in a painful and undignified way.

Lopata, Helena Z.

Helena Znaniecka Lopata has published over ten books on the social roles of women, role modification, aging, and social support. Born in 1925 in Poznan, Poland, she is the daughter of Florian Znaniecki, a well-known sociologist in both Poland and the United States.

Mahler, Gustav

Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) was a Bohemian-born Austrian symphonic composer whose sprawling sonic canvases were often concerned with death, either as a spur to life or as a tragic and inconsolable end. Mahler grappled with mortality in his personal life as well as in his art.

Malthus, Thomas

Thomas Malthus (1766–1834) was an English clergyman whose theory on population, contained in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798, and later revisions), has had a considerable impact on thinking about the limits of population growth. Malthus believed that unchecked population grows geometrically, a rate that surpasses the ability of the means of subsistence (e.g., food) to support it.


The martyr is common to every modern culture, and all societies are proud to acclaim the sacrifices of their spiritual heroes. However martyrdom as a concept is difficult to define, let alone distinguish from simple heroism or idiotic folly, because the awarding of the martyr's crown lies as much in the eyes of the beholder as in the logic of a precise definition.

Mass Killers

When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, it was not the most extensive example of mass murder ever committed, but it did have a great impact on the world, launching an extensive "war on terrorism." This incident is just one of thousands of examples of mass murder perpetrated throughout human history.

Maya Religion

At the time of Spanish contact in the sixteenth century the Maya were not a single, unified political or cultural entity, but rather were composed of competing as well as allied city states and kingdoms, many of which spoke mutually unintelligible Mayan languages, including Quiche, Tzotzil, and Yucatec. Thus, to avoid overgeneralizations it is important to specify particular Maya cultures when mentioning sixteenth-century accounts.