The death of Vaclav Havel, the political dissident turned national leader and international hero has touched the world. Havel died Sunday December 18 at his weekend home in the northern Czech Republic. The 75-year-old former chain-smoker had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his time in prison.
He was born October 5, 1936, in Prague, the child of a wealthy family that lost extensive property to communist nationalization in 1948. Havel was denied a formal education, eventually earning a degree at night school and starting out in theater as a stagehand. His political activism began in January 1977, when he co-authored the human rights manifesto Charter 77, and the cause drew widening attention in the West.