Oldest person whose fame does not relate to their age?

The death of Oscar Niemeyer at just shy of 105 led me to wonder who is/was the oldest person whose fame is unconnected with their old age?

IMDB tells me that George Abbott, who wrote the screenplay for the 1930 film version of All Quiet on the Western Front, made it to 107. Not as famous as Niemeyer, though.

Olivia de Havilland is 96. Her sister Joan Fontaine is a year younger.

I think the answer is Dr Leila Denmark, one of the developers of the pertussis vaccine, who died this past April aged 114.


The most recent living Queen Mother of the United Kingdom was 101 at death, and a clear case of being famous for something other than her age.

John D. Rockefeller died at age 99, obviously famous long before he was old.

I guess it would depend on definition of fame. Wikipedia has about 12 lists of famous centenarians in various categories, but most of them like Dr. Denmark I had simply never heard of before. I know that’s not necessarily a great barometer of fame, but someone like a prominent member of British Royalty is known to millions whereas a co-creator of a vaccine typically isn’t nearly as famous.

For example Sasha Krasny lived to be 112 and is a Russian poet, but I’d be a liar if I said I’d even heard her name, let alone had any idea what she was famous for. An Orthodox Saint apparently lived to be 116, and was Patriarch of Jerusalem, but also probably wildly unknown except by hardcore Orthodox or hardcore theologians.

I looked all of the lists and only found five that I would consider to be household names: Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, George Burns, Rose Kennedy, Grandma Moses. And frankly I don’t know whether folks outside the US would know Kennedy.

Oh. I thought we were talking about people who are still living, but now I see the OP said “is/was.” Ignore Olivia De Havilland, then.

As the OP, I will arbitrarily dictate that ‘famous’ means:

  • own page on Wikipedia
  • not primarily famous for being old

Dr. Denmark qualifies on the first point, but the opening paragraph of her Wiki page focuses on her supercentarian status (and why not- she was at one point the 4th oldest person on Earth).

I think you may be surprised how many people do know of Rose Kennedy- at least of my vintage.

I would add thatDame Elisabeth Murdoch passed away yesterday at 103.

And that is a problem in that she meets your criteria, but is possibly not well known in Australia let alone the rest of the world.

Not to everyone.

They ain’t got nothing on Luise Rainer.

General Giap is still alive, at 101.

Dutch actor and singer Johannes Heesters died 2011, aged 108.

His first credit in the IMDB is from 1924, the last one from 2011:

Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) is definitely a household name here in Israel (and is not completely unknown in the UK).

Wikipedia, bless its heart, has several lists of centenarians who are famous for reasons other than age.

Fun fact: there are two living Nobel laureates who are over 100 years old: Rita Levi-Montalcini, age 103 (who won the physiology/medicine prize in 1986), and Ronald Coase, age 101 (who won the economics prize in 1991.)

With respect, I have never heard of Oscar Niemeyer in my life. But I sure knew who Mr. Abbot was, and how old he was. Until he wasn’t, I mean.

I agree with Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, and George Burns. I’d also add in the Queen Mother and John D. Rockefeller as being major celebrities. The rest are minor celebrities at best, with some, like Dr. Denmark, being almost completely unkown outside of certain specialized circles.

Arthur Rubinstein pushed 100 and performed for 80 years.
Eubie Blake was a legend–one of those “I didn’t even know he was alive” guys.
Toscanini was ancient and in the public eye when he died.

My time is not yet come.

The first is a very weak criterion. I have a Wiki page and no one outside of relatives and those in my profession know me at all. Of course despite my SD moniker, I’m only in my 7th decade.