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Besse Cooper, World’s Oldest Person, Passes Away

Born in 1896, Besse Cooper was came into a world that was vastly different than the one she just left

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Not Besse Cooper’s hands. Photo: Chris Zielecki

Born in Tennessee on August 26, 1896, Besse Cooper‘s 116-year long run—which saw her enjoy a brief stint as the world’s oldest person—came to a close yesterday when she passed away in a Georgia nursing home. Cooper’s long life took her through a period of radical global transformation, having been born into a world vastly different than the one she just left.

Just a month before her birth, Cooper’s home state of Tennessee would have been busy celebrating their 100th anniversary as a U.S. state. And, just a year earlier, Guglielmo Marconi achieved the first long-distance wireless radio transmission, sending a signal across a mile and a half of open air as part of his pioneering experiments. (Commercial radio wouldn’t arise until Cooper was already 24.) Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was 40 years old, Ford’s Model T entered production just after she turned 12 and, by the time Beatlemania hit U.S. shores, Cooper was nearly 70.

As World War 1 shook Europe, Cooper moved from Tennessee to Georgia, looking to become a teacher, says the Associated Press. For the past few years, Cooper had lived in a nursing home.

Besse Cooper died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in Monroe, , according to her son Sidney Cooper.

…Cooper said his mother had been ill recently with a stomach virus, then felt better on Monday. On Tuesday he said she had her hair set and watched a Christmas video, but later had trouble breathing. She was put on oxygen in her room and died there about 2 p.m., Cooper said.

The crown for the world’s oldest living person now passes to the 115-year old Dina Manfredini.

More from Smithsonian.com:
The World’s Oldest Living Organisms
How One Man Accidentally Killed the Oldest Tree Ever

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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