Edward Teller

On 9 September, the father of the hydrogen bomb passed away. He was a controversial figure, who was vilified by many physicists after testifying in 1954 that Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the wartime Manhattan Project, was a security risk. Teller later championed President Ronald Reagan's 'Star Wars' missile-defence initiative. But colleagues at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, co-founded by Teller, say that he should also be remembered for his passion for teaching physics.


One of NASA's most successful planetary probes took a suicide dive into Jupiter on 21 September. Having nearly run out of fuel, Galileo was aimed straight at the planet to prevent it from accidentally crash-landing on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, which some suspect may harbour extraterrestrial life. The craft tore apart as it descended into the gassy planet's atmosphere; its last data transmission arrived on Earth 52 minutes later.

Dolly the sheep

At the relatively tender age of six, Dolly died. After falling ill of a progressive lung disease, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell was put down for welfare reasons. Dolly also suffered from arthritis, but it is unclear whether her ailments were a side effect of her unusual genesis. Dolly the icon lives on, stuffed, at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh.

Japan's satellites

Mission controllers were forced to say 'adios' to Japan's Midori-II Earth observing satellite, also known as ADEOS-II, in October, just ten months into a three-year mission. Its electronics are thought to have been blasted by solar flares. The following month, a Japanese rocket carrying two spy satellites was forced to self-destruct ten minutes after launch when its boosters failed to separate. And Nozomi, Japan's first planetary mission, ran out of fuel in December and officially missed its target of Mars — completing a miserable year for the nation's space programme.

And if we're not careful...

Atlantic cod were officially declared endangered by Canada, and stocks have also crashed in the North Sea — where warming waters are reducing larval survival, adding to the effects of overfishing. Cod are not alone. The number of chimpanzees and gorillas in West Africa has plunged by about half over the past 20 years, researchers revealed this year. If current trends continue, hunting, habitat destruction and Ebola fever will drive them to the brink of extinction within a decade. More than 12,000 species of plants and animals face a similarly bleak future, according to the World Conservation Union.