Would you like to live forever; disease free? I never thought that I was mortal until I was seventeen years old. Some humans have dreamed of this possibility, and I was one of them. Reality has slapped me in the face. One of the most notable wishes to “live forever” was made by the Pharaohs of Egypt! The techniques they used were extraordinarily good for that time period. You can still witness their efforts today.
Benjamin Franklin expressed sorrow in 1773, that he lived “in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science” that he could not be preserved and revitalized to achieve his “very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence.”
In 1922, Alexander Yaroslavsky, a member of the Russian immortalists-biochemists movement wrote the “Anabiosys Poem”. In 1924, Soviet Communists considered freezing Vladimir Lenin’s body. While freezing will preserve a body, there is no way to accomplish this procedure with current technology without damaging the body.
In 1962 Michigan college physics teacher Robert Ettinger proposed that freezing people may be a way to preserve them until future medical technology could be used to cure them. He made the proposal in a privately published book, The Prospect of Immortality. Even though freezing a person is apparently fatal, Mr. Ettinger postulated that what appears to be fatal today may be reversible in the future.
In 1964, Evan Cooper founded the Life Extension Society (LES) in order to promote freezing people for the purpose of reviving then later. In 1965, the Life Extension Society offered the opportunity to preserve one person free of all charges, stating that “the Life Extension Society now has primitive facilities for emergency short term freezing and storing our friend the large homeotherm (man). LES offers to freeze free of charge the first person desirous and in need of cryogenic suspension.”
Dr. James Hiram Bedford, a psychology professor, grabbed the opportunity and was established as their candidate. Dr. Bedford suffered from kidney cancer that later metastasized into his lungs. At that time, his condition was untreatable. Fifty years ago, on January 12, 1967, Dr. Bedford became the first person to undergo cryonic preservation with the intent of future resuscitation. He was seventy-three years old at the time of his death. Dr. Bedford left $100,000 to cryonics research by means of a trust established by his will.
Cryonics is defined as the low-temperature preservation of humans who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that their resuscitation and restoration to full health may be possible in the future.
Dr. Bedford’s body was frozen a few hours after his death, which was due to natural causes related to his cancer. Cryonics Society of California (CSC) that was headed by Robert Nelson actually did this first human freezing under cryonics-controlled (non-mortuary) conditions. His body was maintained in liquid nitrogen, first by his family and with several transfers, it is now at The Alcor Life Extension Foundation, most often referred to as Alcor, where it still lies frozen today.
Over the next year and a half Nelson froze four others, who were kept in dry ice at a mortuary. It appears from court documents that he quietly let the four bodies at Chatsworth thaw, not later than around the end of 1971. Nelson’s freezing operations ended with the thawing of two bodies in April of 1979. In total there were nine frozen people stored, thawed, and decomposed at the Chatsworth site by Nelson. Chatsworth became a byword for disaster in cryonics, and Nelson was castigated as a liar, cheat, and even called a mass-murderer by some in cryonics. Others in the industry viewed him and his meagerly-funded operation more sympathetically.
It has been reported that about 250 humans are currently cryopreserved in this country. There are also about 1,500 other people who have completed provisions for this procedure. Most of both groups are with Alcor, along with a few dozen pets. No human has yet been restored after being cryonically preserved. I will note that some people have been restored to normal functioning after being completely submerged in cold water for more than an hour.