The historian who linked legends of Dracula to sadistic 15th-century Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler has died at the age of 88. Romanian-born professor Radu Florescu, who fled his homeland on the Orient Express as World War II broke out, gained fame in the '70s with In Search of Dracula, which found that author Bram Stoker had based his fictional vampire on Vlad the Impaler, the AP reports. He went on to write five more Dracula books with co-author Raymond T. McNally.
Florescu, a noted philanthropist, founded the East European Research Center at Boston College and counseled Sen. Edward Kennedy on Balkan affairs. "No American has educated more Americans about Romania—and Dracula—than Professor Florescu. I was lucky to be one of his grateful students," says a former US ambassador to Romania. In a statement, Romania's royal house praised Florescu for building a bridge between Romania and the US and giving the country's history "a drop of universality," reports Adevarul. (In Transylvania, meanwhile, the castle that once housed Vlad the Impaler is up for sale.)