A Short History
     of Cryonics

     and a long, hard look
     at the lessons
     we can learn from it

     by Charles Platt
     Vice President, CryoCare Foundation

     The "Impossible" Dream

The dream of escaping mortality has tantalized humanity for
thousands of years. It occurs in all primitive cultures and
modern world religions. Even Buddhism, which rejects the
concept of an afterlife, offers the solace of reincarnation.
Clearly, there is a natural human yearning to transcend the
limits imposed on us by our physical form.
     In the twentieth century, for the first time, scientific
evidence finally provided rational hope that the dream might
become a reality. In 1940, pioneer biologist Basil Luyet
published a work titled "Life and Death at Low Temperatures"
in which he described his experiments freezing living cells.
Luyet observed that many organisms were damaged irrevocably
by physical and chemical changes which were triggered by the
freezing process, but in some cases he managed to restore
normal function when organisms were rewarmed after freezing.


     Luyet's work led a team of British scientists to
establish a whole new area of science which they named
_cryobiology._ By soaking cells in a solution of glycerol,
they minimized ice damage. Using this _cryoprotectant,_ they
were able to freeze red blood cells and bull semen, then
restore their functions completely after rewarming, thus
proving that life can, in fact, be stopped and restarted
under controlled conditions. If such a thing as a "life
force" exists, it seems to survive the frozen state.

     The Promotion of Cryonics

     In the United States, an American physics professor
named Robert Ettinger saw that the discoveries in cryobiology
had important implications for human beings. In 1964, his
book _The Prospect of Immortality_ promoted the idea that a
person frozen after legal death might rationally hope to be
resuscitated at some time in the far future when medicine has
acquired the ability to cure most diseases, reverse the aging
process, and repair any residual damage caused by freezing.
     The name that was applied to Ettinger's concept was
_cryonics._ This distinguishes the freezing of human beings
from _cryogenics,_ the general science of low temperatures.
     Initially, cryobiologists reserved judgment regarding
cryonics. But as Ettinger began appearing on talk shows and
sensationalistic media coverage began to snowball, many
scientists started to distance themselves from the concept,
perhaps fearing that they might lose credibility or funding.
As a result, there has been very little research into
reversible cryopreservation of mammals since the 1960s.

     Suda's Breakthrough

     One of the last and most important experiments at a
conventionally funded laboratory took place in 1966, when
Japanese scientist Isamu Suda froze isolated cat brains after
perfusing them with glycerol, then rewarmed them under
carefully controlled conditions. Electroencephalograph traces
showed that the brains regained some function, even though
they had been frozen for a month or more. Suda's paper
describing this work was published in _Nature,_ the most
prestigious journal of the biological sciences.

     The Activists

     Some readers were irrevocably changed by "The Prospect
of Immortality," which seemed to offer hope where none had
existed before. They wrote to Ettinger asking what was being
done to turn cryonics into a reality, and they were dismayed
when he told them that no money was being spent on research
and no organization was planning to offer cryonics services
to the general public.
     A few activists decided to take matters into their own
hands. In 1965, the Cryonics Society of New York (CSNY) was
formed, followed in 1966 by the Cryonics Society of Michigan
(CSM) and the Cryonics Society of California (CSC). Though
they lacked medically qualified personnel and could not
afford equipment to perfuse patients properly with
cryoprotectant, these groups pronounced themselves ready to
freeze people to the best of their limited abilities. They
hoped that in the distant future, science would be able to
undo the damage caused by their primitive procedures. This
was a hit-and-miss approach, but it was better than nothing.
     Few people signed up with these gifted amateurs, and
membership of cryonics societies grew very slowly. The
activists remained tireless in their attempts to convince the
public that cryonics was the greatest idea of the century,
but their technical abilities lagged far behind their
enthusiasm, and for a long time, cryonics suffered from lack
of money and expertise.

     The First Cryonaut

     In 1967, CSC president Robert Nelson led a team that
cryopreserved the first man. Nelson was a TV repair man who
nevertheless presented himself as a visionary leading a
movement which would make its mark on human history. He had a
gift for infecting other people with his sense of destiny,
but in the long term, he lacked the resources to follow
through. CSC was chronically short of money, even while
Nelson circulated plans for huge "cryotoriums" which he hoped
would house thousands of cryonics patients. The gap between
his grand dreams and reality would ultimately prove fatal--to
CSC and to its patients.

     The Chatsworth Scandal

     CSC froze half-a-dozen people over the next few years.
Some were "charity cases" while others were financed by
relatives who agreed to pay storage costs on an indefinite
basis. Almost unanimously, the relatives defaulted on their
commitments, depriving Nelson of necessary cash-flow.
Inexcusably (Nelson claims it was an accident), deliveries of
liquid nitrogen were allowed to lapse, and the patients
thawed in their tanks.
     It wasn't until 1978 that the scandal became public. An
attorney for relatives of one of the patients led journalists
to the Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California, where
they opened an underground vault owned by CSC and saw for
themselves that the patients had not been maintained. A law
suit followed, and the same relatives who had failed to make
maintenance payments accused Robert Nelson of causing them
severe mental suffering. Nelson, and the mortician who had
assisted him, were assessed substantial damages.
     The Chatsworth scandal remains unique in cryonics
history. Other organizations were also short of cash but were
run on highly ethical principles and avoided any breach of
their responsibility toward patients and relatives. In New
York, under the leadership of Curtis Henderson and Saul Kent,
CSNY successfully froze several people, none of whom was
neglected because of insufficient funds. (In the end, most of
CSNY's patients were reclaimed by relatives who arranged for
care elsewhere.)
     Still, the impact of the Chatsworth scandal was
sufficient to tarnish the image of cryonics, and the late
1970s were a moribund period in which little growth occurred.

     Private Research

     Meanwhile, a young man in Indianapolis named Michael
Federowicz was determined to elevate cryonics to the level of
legitimate medical science. Federowicz had been nicknamed
"Mike Darwin" at school, because he believed in evolution and
rejected creationism. His nickname stuck, and he now uses it
as his formal name.
     Mike established his own cryonics group in Indianapolis
and started doing bona-fide animal research, improving the
procedures for perfusing and cooling cryonics patients.
Meanwhile, another man named Jerry Leaf had also decided to
dedicate himself to cryonics research. Leaf was a
cardiovascular research scientist at UCLA medical center. In
his spare time, he started purchasing his own medical
equipment in the hope of pursuing cryonics research on a
private basis.
     Ultimately, Mike Darwin joined Jerry Leaf in the Los
Angeles area. With funding from Saul Kent and his business
partner William Faloon, they rented a building which they
used for research, cooling anesthetized dogs to a couple of
degrees above freezing, replacing all their blood with a
substitute, and holding the animals with no measurable signs
of life for as long as three hours. Most of the dogs were
successfully revived and were donated to people as pets.
     Through their research, Leaf and Darwin proved
conclusively that if a "transport team" could be at a
patient's beside, ready to administer the necessary drugs and
procedures as soon as death was pronounced, the patient could
be safely moved to a cryonics facility with minimal injury
caused by lack of blood flow.
     The main beneficiary of these scientific advances was
the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which had been
established in 1972 by two former members of CSC who saw the
need for a cryonics organization run on a professional,
ethical basis. Leaf became the leader of the Alcor cryonic
suspension team. Darwin became president of Alcor and
subsequently its director of research.


     Alcor's technical prowess attracted many new members,
and the growth curve became steeper still when a book by Eric
Drexler, _The Engines of Creation,_ was published in 1986.
Drexler proposed the concept of nanotechnology--machines on
the molecular scale, theoretically capable of repairing
individual cells. At last, cryonics advocates were able to
describe exactly how they hoped future science could undo the
freezing damage that still tended to occur even when
cryoprotectants were used. Cryonics began to lose its air of
wishful thinking, and scientists, physicians, and technically
literate professionals in many different fields started to
join Alcor in increasing numbers.

     Modern Cryonics

     In the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Alcor Foundation
experienced phenomenal growth, and the concept of cryonics
started receiving unprecedented media exposure--in countless
newspaper articles, TV documentaries, and Hollywood movies.
Alcor member Charles Platt created the Omni Immortality
Contest, which applied conventional promotional techniques to
cryonics for the first time. It prompted hundreds of people
to write essays explaining why they would like to win the
prize of a free cryonic suspension.

     Four New Organizations

     By 1993, there were four well-established groups
offering cryonics services: Alcor, in Southern California;
Robert Ettinger's Cryonics Institute, in Michigan; and The
American Cryonics Society and Trans Time Corporation, both
located in Northern California.
     Despite growth in cryonics, none of these organizations
could be run on a profitable basis. To some extent, they all
required donations in order to cover their operating costs.
     Under the circumstances, it seemed that cryonics groups
should cooperate for mutual strength until a time when
cryonics could become more profitable. Unfortunately, there
were other factors to consider. In many respects, management
skills had lagged behind medical expertise in cryonics.
Organizations were still run almost entirely by activists who
had little experience in the business world yet were
reluctant to seek outside advice. At least one group was so
reluctant to change its policies, a large part of its
membership felt that it was unresponsive to their views and
needs. Consequently, some people broke away to begin an
entirely new enterprise which they hoped would be run on a
more professional basis.    
     They created not one but four organizations, each
specializing in a single aspect of cryonics. The names and
functions are as follows:
     *CryoCare:* Presents cryonics to the general public and
signs up customers for cryonic suspension. Receives patients
under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and takes legal
responsibility for their welfare for the indefinite future.
     *Biopreservation:* Goes to patients and performs medical
procedures after legal death is pronounced. Stabilizes
patients, perfuses them with cryoprotectant, and takes them
down to dry-ice temperature.
     *CryoSpan:* Cools patients to -196 degrees Celsius,
places them in stainless-steel dewars where they are immersed
in liquid nitrogen, and care for them until possible
     *Independent Patient Care Foundation:* Invests patient
funds, yielding income to pay the yearly costs of patient
care while keeping the fund principal increasing at least as
fast as inflation.


     Why so many companies? Because the time has come for
cryonics organizations to learn the lessons of history and
take steps to insure that past mistakes should never be
repeated. By splitting the traditional functions of cryonics
into totally separate business entities, various safeguards
can be built in, in much the same way that the separation of
powers between the legislature, the judiciary, and the
presidency helps to maintain stability in our political
     Patient Care Funds are removed from the control of the
primary organization, so that they can never be spent on
anything other than long-term patient care.
     After patients have been cryopreserved, they are
maintained by a legally separate organization to keep them
safe from any legal or financial difficulties that the other
businesses may encounter. Maintaining tissues in liquid
nitrogen is a well-established medical business that is best
kept separate from the more controversial procedures of
preparing patients for cryopreservation.
     Since cryopreservation and storage are offered as
services by independent providers, these businesses are
motivated not only by their own dedication, but by
competition in the free market. CryoCare is also free to find
other service providers, giving members a choice that most
other organizations do not provide. In 1995, for instance,
CryoCare began offering the option of long-term maintenance
at the Cryonics Institute as an alternative to CryoSpan.

Let's now examine these advantages in more detail.

     1. Patient safety.

     Cryonics is still regarded with deep skepticism by many
people--especially government regulators. As a result,
cryonics organizations have been faced with more than their
share of legal challenges. The Alcor Foundation experienced a
crisis in 1988 when it moved one of its patients into its
facility prior to cryopreservation, which attracted the
attention of the local coroner, whose subsequent
investigation placed every Alcor patient in jeopardy. Only a
last-minute court order protected the patients from the
coroner. We believe that cryopreserved patients can be better
protected against government intervention and hostile
relatives if they are kept and cared for by a company that is
entirely separate from the organization that performs the
initial procedures of cryopreservation.

     2. Financial security.

     Cryonics organizations have always tended to be
undercapitalized. As a result, sometimesthey have been
tempted to use patient-care funds to pay everyday expenses.
CryoCare, the company that assumes legal responsibility for
the patients, is compelled by its by-laws and contracts to
place all patient-care assets with the Independent Patient
Care Foundation, an entirely separate organization which
reserves the income from a patient's funds strictly for
expenses that directly benefit that patient. Moreover, the
Independent Patient Care Foundation will be run by successful
financial professionals who may not be officers or directors
of any other cryonics-related organization.

     3. Better service through competition.

     In the plan above, BioPreservation performs suspensions
on a contractual basis. But if other, similar companies enter
the field and offer a comparable service, CryoCare members
will have the option to choose among them. Conversely, any
service provider that fails to offer satisfactory service can
be removed from CryoCare's list. This degree of choice, and
this performance incentive, have never existed before in

     4. Better performance through specialization.

     Of the four main tasks in cryonics--signing up new
customers, performing cryopreservation procedures, storing
patients, and investing patient funds--each requires a very
different mix of skills and experience. Traditionally, in an
all-purpose cryonics organization, a few people would attempt
to do all the various tasks, from sending out press releases
to administering emergency protocol. Our new model recognizes
that cryonics is too big and important to be run by
generalists with a finger in every pie. Each company can and
should have directors and employees with appropriate skills
and experience.
     We also recognize that cryonics activists tend to be
independent people who are happier and more productive as
entrepreneurs than as a large cooperative group.

     5. Realistic assessment of goals.

     The history of cryonics shows a repeated tendency to be
dazzled by our ultimate goal of biological immortality while
becoming inattentive to everyday financial details. For
example, there has been a recurring obsession with
impressive, large-scale building projects without adequate
concern for their cost. In the CryoCare model each company
has narrower, specific goals, and cash-hungry PR initiatives
are isolated from the routine but critical operation of
maintaining patients in long-term care.

     6. Flexible response to the needs of members and patients.

     Other cryonics organizations take complete control of
the frozen patients. The CryoCare system is more flexible,
allowing amembers to nominate one or more Patient Advocates
to represent their interests after legal death has been
pronounced. While some cryonics organizations are structured
to be highly resistant to change, CryoCare's system of
Patient Advocates enables properly qualified members to exert
some influence over the way that the organization is run.

     The Future

     If cryonics is to work, safe and reliable care may have
to be provided for a century or more. Setting up a business
on this basis, with limited funds and personnel, is a great
     CryoCare, and the other new companies whose services it
employs, may not be the ultimate answer. It may never be able
to eliminate all risk from cryonics. But the multi-
organization scenario is the most serious attempt that has
ever been made to learn the lessons of history and profit
from them.
     The dream of escaping mortality is powerfully seductive.
It is a worthy dream, but it will only come true if it is
pursued on a cautious, skeptical, rational basis. Attention
to detail, high ethical standards, state-of-the-art medical
techniques, continuing research, and impeccable financial
management are indispensable if cryonics is to fulfill the
promise which first excited public imagination more than
twenty-five years ago. These are the principles on which the
CryoCare system is founded.

     How to Contact Cryocare

     Call toll-free for information:
     1-800-TOP-CARE (1-800-867-2273)

     For inquiries via U.S. Mail:
     CryoCare Foundation
     1013 Centre Road
     Suite 301
     Wilmington, DE 19805-1297

     Email address:

     Web site:

     (c) Copyright 1994 by Charles Platt