A BRIEF HIS­TORY OF CRY­ON­ICS

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

1940s

French bi­ol­o­gist Jean Ro­stand stud­ies how ex­tremely low tem­per­a­tures af­fect the prop­er­ties of ma­te­ri­als and liv­ing things – now known as cryo­gen­ics.

1962

In­spired by Ro­stand’s work and sci­ence fic­tion, a physics teacher and war veteran called Robert Et­tinger pub­lishes The Prospect

Of Im­mor­tal­ity, propos­ing that hu­mans could be frozen and awo­ken in the fu­ture.

1965

As so­ci­eties and com­pa­nies ded­i­cated to life ex­ten­sion start to form across the US, the term ‘cry­on­ics’ is coined for the move­ment started by Et­tinger.

1967

Prof James Bed­ford is the first per­son to be frozen. In 1991, when re­moved from stor­age to be eval­u­ated, his body is found to be pre­served but dam­aged, with dis­coloured skin and “frozen blood is­su­ing from his mouth and nose”.

1979

Nine sup­pos­edly frozen pa­tients are found de­com­pos­ing in the ‘Chatsworth crypt’ in Los An­ge­les. In the 1960s and 1970s, cry­on­ics pi­o­neers strug­gle to main­tain the tem­per­a­ture of their frozen pa­tients. Bed­ford is the only per­son frozen in this era who re­mains frozen to­day.

1980s

Cry­on­ics com­pa­nies start freez­ing peo­ple’s heads but not their bod­ies (known as ‘neu­ros’), based on the idea that our brains could be trans­planted, sup­ported by ma­chines or up­loaded to com­put­ers in the fu­ture.

1999

The first baby is born from eggs that have been frozen. Freez­ing embryos, sperm and other bod­ily tis­sue soon be­comes a rou­tine part of medicine.

2002/03

The first whole or­gan, a kid­ney, is suc­cess­fully vit­ri­fied (turned into a glasslike state), thawed, and re-trans­planted back into a rab­bit, where it ap­pears to func­tion nor­mally.

2015

Ex­per­i­ments ap­pear to show that mi­cro­scopic worms can sur­vive cryo­genic freez­ing and re­tain mem­o­ries from events that took place be­fore they were frozen.

2016

The Time­ship project, headed up by Stephen Valen­tine (pic­tured), an­nounces plans to store thou­sands of pa­tients at a pur­pose-built fa­cil­ity in Texas. There are thought to be around 250 peo­ple cur­rently cryo­geni­cally frozen in the world.

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