We look back at those who died in 2012.
Neil Armstrong (82), astronaut who made "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" as the first human to walk on the moon.
Ahmed Ben Bella (95), anti-colonial fighter and first president of independent Algeria.
Maeve Binchy (72), bestselling Irish novelist.
Ernest Borgnine (95), American actor.
Ray Bradbury (91), American science fiction writer, best known for his novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953).
Christine Brooke-Rose (88), British experimental novelist; worked as code-breaker during World War II.
Helen Gurley Brown (90), author of epochal Sex and the Single Girl (1962); edited Cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years.
Dave Brubeck (91), jazz pianist who blended unusual rhythms with elegant tunefulness.
Great South Africans who went to the ancestors
Neville Alexander (75), scholar and anti-apartheid activist, jailed on Robben Island from 1964 to 1974; did prize-winning work on language policy in South Africa.
Arthur Chaskalson (81), leading human-rights lawyer; was part of the Rivonia trial defence, first director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, later president of the Constitutional Court and chief justice.
Cosmas Desmond (76), Franciscan priest from Irish family who became a South African activist; author of The Discarded People (1970), about the lives of black South Africans, he was banned for years; in 1994 he stood for Parliament as a Pan Africanist Congress candidate.
Jakes Gerwel (66), beloved teacher and vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape from 1987 to 1994, he transformed it into a multiracial powerhouse; later director general in the Mandela presidency.
Heidi Holland (64), journalist, author and guest-house owner; her acclaimed book Dinner with Mugabe was published in 2008.
Alf Kumalo (82), photographer who depicted South Africa’s most turbulent years, from the 1950s on.
Sister Bernard Ncube (79), Catholic who became a leading anti-apartheid activist, later an ANC MP.
Zwelakhe Sisulu (61), journalist; he started New Nation in 1986, and was chief executive of the SABC from 1994 to 1997.
Phillip Tobias (86), author or co-author of 33 books and South Africa’s most renowned palaeoanthropologist, he was at the heart of the gound-breaking Sterkfontein fossil finds.
Sudley Adams (56), M&G events co-ordinator and manager of the paper's awards programmes
Elliott Carter (103), composer.
Dick Clark (82), American TV presenter who embraced rock 'n roll.
Alexander Cockburn (71), radical British journalist.
Bryce Courtenay (79), bestselling novelist; The Power of One (1989), set in South Africa, where he was born, made him famous.
Lol Coxhill (79), British saxophonist.
Simin Daneshvar (90), Iranian writer; first Iranian woman to publish under her own name and first to be translated from Farsi into English.
Nora Ephron (71), American screenwriter famed for hits When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.
Valerie Eliot (86), widow of poet TS Eliot and guardian of his legacy.
Fang Lizhi (76), Chinese astrophysicist and dissident intellectual who influenced the Tiananmen Square protesters of 1989.
Shulamith Firestone (67), leading feminist of the 1970s, she wrote The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970).
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (86), German baritone.
Carlos Fuentes (83), multi-prize-winning Mexican writer of more than 60 works, including the epic Terra Nostra (1975), covering two millennia of Hispano-American history.
Robin Gibb (62), Bee Gee.
Jean Giraud (73), French artist known by his pen names Moebius and Gir; also directed two animated movies and worked on films such as Tron and The Fifth Element.
Larry Hagman (81), TV actor, famous for playing "JR" in the hit Dallas.
Harry Harrison (87), American science-fiction writer; author of novel that inspired Soylent Green (1973).
Levon Helm (71), musician, most famously drummer in The Band.
Hans Werner Henze (86), prolific German composer with many styles; openly gay leftist who exiled himself from Germany in 1952.
Eric Hobsbawm (95), Marxist historian whose "trilogy", The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 1962), The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 (1975) and The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 (1987), is deemed one of the towering achievements of 20th-century historiography. The Age of Extremes: 1914-1991 (1994) followed.
Whitney Houston (48), American pop diva who sold 120-million albums in her lifetime.
Günther Kaufmann (64), German actor who was in many of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's movies.
Rajesh Khanna (69), Indian cinema's first superstar; also served as MP.
Sylvia Kristel (60), actor famed for the risqué Emmanuelle movies.
Herbert Lom (95), Czech-born actor, best known for Pink Panther films.
Jim Marshall (88), maker of the famous amplifier.
Tomás Borge Martínez (81), poet and co-founder of the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua; later served in the Sandinista government.
Ralph McQuarrie (82), artist and designer, most famously of Star Wars figures such as Darth Vader.
Sun Myung Moon (92), Korean-born self-proclaimed messiah and founder of Unification Church or "Moonies", which earned him billions. Jailed in 1982 for tax evasion.
Bingu wa Mutharika (78), president of Malawi who went from democrat to despot.
Dmitri Nabokov (77), son and translator of Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita.
Oscar Niemeyer (104), the last great modernist architect; designer of the city centre of Brasilia.
Roy Padayachee (62), South Africa's minister of public service and administration.
Frank Pierson (87), Hollywood screenwriter; won Oscar for the script of Dog Day Afternoon (1975).
Ferdinand "Butzi" Porsche (76), industrial designer responsible for the Porsche 911.
Adrienne Rich (82), poet and radical feminist; her 1980 essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence was deeply influential on gender politics.
Frank Sherwood "Sherry" Rowland (84), scientist of chlorofluorocarbons and their impact on the atmosphere; co-winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry.
Andrew Sarris (83), film critic, author of American Cinema.
Vidal Sassoon (84), pioneering 1960s hairdresser.
Tony Scott (68), British-born film director who had a massive hit with Top Gun (1986).
Earl Scruggs (88), banjo player, key figure in the development of bluegrass music from 1940s onwards.
Yitzhak Shamir (96), Israeli politician; despite his hawkish reputation, the first Israeli leader to negotiate openly with the Palestinians.
Ravi Shankar (92), Bengali-born sitar virtuoso who took his native classical tradition to the West; collaborator George Harrison called him "the godfather of world music".
Maurice Sendak (83), hugely successful author-illustrator of kids' books, including Where the Wild Things Are (1963); his 90 titles sold 30-million copies in the US alone.
Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria (88), spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church for four decades.
Sicelo Shiceka (45), former minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, criticised for overspending on himself; was on sick leave for more than a year.
Amarillo Slim (83), world poker champion; fuelled its popularity.
Billy Strange (81), guitarist, songwriter, arranger; worked with Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys.
Donna Summer (63), disco diva; she had three multi-platinum albums in the 1970s and the megahits Love to Love You Baby and I Feel Love.
Thomas Szasz (92), Hungarian-American psychiatrist and writer.
Antonio Tabucchi (68), Italian writer and co-founder, in 1993, of the International Parliament of Writers.
Antoni Tàpies (88), Catalan artist and pioneer of abstraction.
John Tchicai (76), Danish-born saxophonist; key member of the early-1960s jazz avant-garde.
Tony Twine (57), respected and influential South African economist.
Barry Unsworth (81), British novelist; co-won 1992 Booker Prize for Sacred Hunger.
Gore Vidal (86), American writer, famed for the scandalous Myra Breckinridge (1968), his multi-novel American Chronicles series, play The Best Man (1960), and many essays on literature and politics.
Mike Wallace (93), long-serving American broadcaster; anchored 60 Minutes from 1968 to 2006.
David S Ware (62), free-jazz saxophonist who carried the 1960s attack into the 2000s.
Kitty Wells (92), "The Queen of Country"; had more than 30 top-10 hits in the 1950s, paving the way for later female country stars such as Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.
Andy Williams (84), crooner; sold more than 100-million albums.
Adam Yauch (47), member of hip-hop group Beastie Boys.
Richard Zanuck (77), Hollywood producer; his career took off with Jaws in 1975.
Meles Zenawi (57), Ethopian leader who led revolution against despot Mengistu Haile Mariam; became president in 1991.