Bin Laden became the most wanted man in the world after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. Nearly a decade later, he was shot dead by U.S. commandos in May after being tracked to his hideout in Pakistan. His body was buried at sea. For Gadhafi, the end came after he was captured by rebels, his final moments shown in gruesome, shaky handheld video that was seen across the globe.
If relief and even celebration greeted their demise, the deaths of other notables in 2011 brought reflection on lives of achievement.
The world of science and innovation lost Steve Jobs, the Apple founder who invented and marketed sleek gadgets that transformed everyday technology from the personal computer to the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Science also said goodbye this year to Christian J. Lambertson, Norman Ramsey, William Nunn Lipscomb, Jr., Boris Chertok and Ralph Steinman.
Political figures who died in 2011 included R. Sargent Shriver, Warren M. Christopher, Jiri Dienstbier, Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Geraldine Ferraro, Max van der Stoel, Necmattin Erbakan, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, Leonidas Kyrkos, Hugh Carey, Garret FitzGerald and Betty Ford.
In entertainment, the world lost Elizabeth Taylor, a woman whose sultry screen persona, stormy personal life and enduring fame made her one of the last of the classic movie stars. The year also saw the passing of soul singer Amy Winehouse, whose death at age 27 left many wondering what works of musical brilliance the world might have seen from the troubled, young star.
Others in the arts and entertainment field who died include: Peter Falk, Jane Russell, Clarence Clemons, Pinetop Perkins, Annie Girardot, Harry Morgan, Ferlin Husky, Susannah York, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, David Nelson, Sidney Lumet, Richard Hamilton, Bil Keane, Poly Styrene, M.F. Husain, Heavy D, Jackie Cooper, Robert Tear and Betty Garrett.
Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2010.
Maj. Richard "Dick" Winters, 92. The man who fought in several major battles in World War II and whose quiet leadership was chronicled in the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers." Jan. 2.
Malangatana Ngwenya, 74. A Mozambican painter, poet and politician who became one of Africa's most famous artists for his work drawing on the country's rocky history. Jan. 5.
Vang Pao, 81. A revered former general in the Royal Army of Laos, who led thousands of Hmong guerrillas in a CIA-backed secret army in the Vietnam war. Jan. 6.
Jiri Dienstbier, 73. A reporter turned dissident who joined Vaclav Havel to help topple one of Eastern Europe's most repressive regimes, then served under Havel in Czechoslovakia's first post-communist government. Jan. 8.
Peter Yates, 81. A British film maker who sent actor Steve McQueen screeching through the streets of San Francisco in a Ford Mustang in "Bullitt." Jan. 9.
Margaret Whiting, 86. A sweet-voiced performer known for sentimental ballads who sold millions of records in the 1940s and 1950s. Jan. 10.
David Nelson, 74. He starred on his parents' popular American television show "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." Jan. 11. Colon cancer.
Mississippi Winn, 113. A former domestic worker believed to be the oldest living African-American in the U.S. and the seventh oldest person in the world. Jan. 14.
Susannah York, 72. One of the leading stars of British and Hollywood films in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Jan. 15. Cancer.
Don Kirshner, 76. A rock promoter who helped launch performers such as Prince, the Eagles, Lionel Ritchie and Ozzy Osbourne. Jan. 17.
R. Sargent Shriver, 95. First Peace Corps director, ambassador and leader of the War on Poverty in the U.S. but best known as a Kennedy in-law. Jan. 18.
Ed Mauser, 94. The oldest living member of a 101st Airborne Division company that became known as the "Band of Brothers" and fought some of the fiercest battles of World War II but kept his Army service secret even from his family. Jan. 21. Pancreatic cancer.
Jack LaLanne, 96. The fitness guru who inspired U.S. television viewers to trim down, eat well and pump iron for decades before diet and exercise became an American obsession. Jan. 23. Respiratory failure due to pneumonia.
Samuel Ruiz, 86. A retired Roman Catholic bishop and staunch defender of Indian rights who served as a mediator in talks between the Mexican government and leftist Zapatista rebels. Jan. 24.
Nora Sun, 72. A former U.S. trade counsel and granddaughter of the founder of Asia's first republic in China, Sun Yat-sen. Jan. 26. Injuries suffered in a car accident.
Image: Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden is seen in Afghanistan. Bin Laden's died May 2, 2011 during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan.
Text & Images: AP