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Apple Founder Steve Jobs Dies at 56

Tech Innovator Had Been Battling Pancreatic Cancer for Years
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 5, 2011 -- Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Inc. who revolutionized the way we use technology, died today after fighting advanced pancreatic cancer since 2004. The death was announced by the company he helped found.

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," Apple stated in a note on its web site. "Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

Unlike many famous people diagnosed with cancer or other fatal illnesses, Jobs revealed few details about his health after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

That was also true when he resigned from the company in August 2011.  Jobs’ shed little insight on his condition in this excerpt from his letter to the Apple Board of Directors:

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.”

He was, however, willing to talk about death, as he did in this 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. He shared his relief at the time that he was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer -- one did not mean an immediate death sentence.  Yet he was realistic about his future:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Legendary Career

In his nearly four-decade career, Jobs oversaw the development of some of the most iconic tech products of the past half century.

He co-founded Apple Computer Inc. in 1976. Based in Cupertino, Calif., the company developed one of the first commercially successful personal computers, the Apple II. Less than 10 years after its founding, though, Apple’s business had lost its momentum, and, in 1985, Jobs was forced to resign.

A year later, Jobs helped found Pixar, the independent animation studio that produced Toy Story and its two sequels, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, and a host of others Academy Award-winning computer-animated films.

Jobs returned to Apple in 1996. The following year he was named CEO, a position he resigned in August 2011.

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