Liquids

Illustration for Liquids

Throughout history there has been a search for an “elixir of life” or “fountain of youth.” Recently people have turned to supplements and injections to increase longevity.

Solids

Illustration for Solids

Humans have also sought out the “philosopher’s stone,” medicines, and crystals to live longer.

Blood

Illustration for Blood

Your blood is your … lifeblood. It's no wonder there's been an obsession with "cleaning" it or replacing it to stave off death.

Machines

Illustration for Machines

Industrialization brought ideas about merging humans with technology or bringing humans back from the dead. These ideas include cryonics, transhumanism, and the singularity, as well as immortalist propositions from biologists.

Biochemistry

Illustration for Biochemistry

Altering DNA or the functions of human bodies through biochemistry is another way people think they'll live forever.

Human progress

Illustration for Human progress

Then there is the onward march of society and mankind. Humans are living longer than ever; how much of that can be attributed to efforts to live forever?

Now, for the timeline:

Illustration for Liquids

Liquids

4th century BC

The Romance of Alexander the Great, a book of legends published in 323 BC, discusses the Macedonian king’s quest to find the “water of life,” or fountain of youth, in what is now the Middle East.

Illustration for Liquids

Liquids

3rd century BC

China’s first emperor, Ying Zheng, orders his subjects to search for a potion that will make him immortal.

Illustration for Solids

Solids

1220 AD

Genghis Khan asks a Taoist monk named Qiu Chuji to provide him with the secret “medicine for immortality.” Qiu tells him there is no such thing.

Illustration for Solids

Solids

1300s

The French bookseller Nicolas Flamel claims to have successfully created the philosopher’s stone, a substance that could transform metal into gold and confer “human life prolonged to its utmost limits.”

Illustration for Blood

Blood

1400s

Italian philosopher and priest Marsilio Ficino recommends that the elderly reenergize themselves by sucking the blood of a “clean, happy, temperate” adolescent.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

1490

Pope Innocent VIII purportedly undergoes several crude blood transfusions from three young ‘donors’ to cure what is now thought to be chronic renal disease. All of the donors die.

Illustration for Solids

Solids

1500s

Medieval doctors prescribe “usnea,” the lichen that grew on the skulls of dead people, to confer longevity and health.

Illustration for Solids

Solids

1500s

European apothecaries peddle powder made from Egyptian mummies as to promote youthful vigor and preserve the body.

Illustration for Liquids

Liquids

1513

Ponce de León’s search for the fountain of youth brings him to present-day Florida.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

Early 1600s

The Hungarian countess and serial killer Erzsébet Báthory purportedly bathes in the blood of virgins to retain her youth.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

1615

A German doctor proposes the first heterochronic parabiosis project, suggesting that “the hot and spirituous blood of a young man will pour into the old one as if it were from a fountain of youth.”

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

1820

The average global life expectancy is recorded at 29 years. It is based on data mostly from Europe.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

1890

Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov emerges as an outspoken member of the Russian cosmism movement. He advocates for radical life extension, physical immortality, and the resurrection of the dead using scientific methods.

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

1913

The average global life expectancy is recorded at 34 years, based on data from Western nations and parts of Asia.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

1924

The Russian-Soviet physician Alexander Bogdanov performs young-blood transfusions on himself and his wife. Bogdanov eventually dies after receiving a transfusion from a young person with tuberculosis.

Illustration for Biochemistry

Biochemistry

1930s

Scientists observe that laboratory rats not only live longer, but also have fewer age-associated diseases when their food intake is restricted.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

1931

The Jameson Satellite by Neil Jones is released. It tells the story of a professor who has his body frozen after death, after which it is sent to space in a capsule. The ideas in the book inspire the pioneers of the cryonics movement over 30 years later.

Illustration for Liquids

Liquids

1940s

Procaine hydrochloride treatments (aka Gerovital or H3) are developed in Romania, bringing the rich to Bucharest to get injections that were supposed to treat “all sorts of afflictions that commonly go with aging.” The drug, which is now banned in the US, reached its height of popularity in the 1970s.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

1949

Parabiosis is performed on a 37-year-old male and a 2-year-old boy, both with myelogenous leukemia. The child’s foot was removed after spontaneously contracting gangrene, and he died five months after the procedure. No changes were recorded in the older man.

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

1950

The average global life expectancy is recorded at 48 years. This is the first time data from African countries is included.

Illustration for Biochemistry

Biochemistry

1951

At Johns Hopkins, the first “immortal” human cell line (HeLa cells) are discovered during the treatment of Henrietta Lacks’s cancer. Scientists use the cells, taken from her without her consent, to develop the polio vaccine and further the research of cancer and HIV.

Illustration for Liquids

Liquids

1960s

“Fresh cell” anti-aging therapy becomes popular, bringing patients (including the likes of Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor) to Switzerland, where their buttocks are injected with the embryonic cells of fetal lambs.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

1962

Physics instructor Robert Ettinger first proposes cryonic preservation in his book The Prospect of Immortality.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

1966

An unidentified, middle-aged woman from Los Angeles becomes the first woman to be cryonically preserved. The procedure goes poorly, and within a year, she is thawed and buried.

Illustration for Biochemistry

Biochemistry

1966

Reading from a paper titled “The End of the Beginning,” biochemist Robert Sinsheimer speaks at CalTech’s 75th anniversary conference: “We know of no intrinsic limits to the life span,” he says. “How long will you like to live?”

Illustration for Machines

Machines

1967

A TV repairman and Ettinger devotee named Robert Nelson performs the world’s first successful cryopreservation on a psychology professor named James Bedford, who is still frozen today.

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

1973

The average global life expectancy is recorded at 60 years.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

1979

Nine cryonics patients are found rotting in an underground crypt in California's San Fernando Valley, in what is known as the “Chatsworth Scandal.”

Illustration for Biochemistry

Biochemistry

1993

Cynthia Kenyon (now a researcher at Google’s Calico) and her colleagues uncover the largest reported lifespan extension in any organism by mutating a gene in C. elegans, a tiny nematode worm.

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

2001

The average global life expectancy is recorded at 66.6 years.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

2005

Stanford stem-cell biologist and neurologist Thomas Rando announces that heterochronic parabiosis (the surgical process of conjoining the blood supplies of older and younger mice) buoys the livers and muscles of the older mice.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

2005

Ray Kurzweil publishes The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. His ideas catch on in Silicon Valley, where he later begins a technutopian incubator (kickstarted by Google’s co-founders) dedicated to the idea. Cryonics enthusiasts opt for freezing in anticipation of the singularity.

Illustration for Liquids

Liquids

2006

Magician David Copperfield issues a press release saying that he has found the “fountain of youth” in a cluster of Bahamian islands he bought for $50 million.

Illustration for Biochemistry

Biochemistry

2013

Google’s Calico is founded, marking the first time Big Tech has made an internal investment in aging research.

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

2016

The average global life expectancy is recorded at 72 years.

Illustration for Machines

Machines

2016

Transhumanists nominate Zoltan Istvan as their 2016 presidential candidate; he runs on “a platform of curing death and uploading consciousness to the cloud.”

Illustration for Blood

Blood

2016

Jesse Karmazin founds the blood transfusion startup Ambrosia, which charges patients $8,000 to infuse one liter of blood from donors under age 25, and $12,000 for two liters.

Illustration for Blood

Blood

2019

Ambrosia ceases all operations after the Federal Drug Administration warns that the practice of blood transfusion could be harmful.

Illustration for Human progress

Human progress

2019

No one recorded on earth has yet lived beyond 122 years, and even that maximum age has been heavily disputed.