Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.
January 12th, 1967
The Cryogenic Freezing of James Bedford
The cryopreservation of living tissue and cells is a relatively common practice today usually reserved for stem cells, fertilized eggs, embryos, and semen. However, in rare and bizarre cases throughout history, a select few people have opted to have their entire bodies cryogenically frozen and preserved upon death. Their hope is that, if the body and brain are preserved well, perhaps far in the distant future medical science may unlock the key to immortality and possible reanimation of their frozen corpses. This practice has often been labeled as unethical pseudo-science.
However, for the right price and cost of upkeep, there are several Cryo facilities that still cater to this macabre practice. The first man to undergo this procedure was Professor James Bedford, a psychologist at the University of California. Professor Bedford died on January 12th, 1967, from kidney and lung cancer. Although the processes for human cryopreservation have adapted and evolved over time, the usual processes involve the use of liquid nitrogen. James Bedford is currently the oldest person to still be maintained cryogenically frozen in the United States.
The practice has become mostly discredited due to a better understanding of neurology and the distinction that the concept of the “mind” vs. the organic nature of the brain are vastly different from each other. Still, some people insist that, in the future, medical breakthroughs within nanotechnology and digital quantum computing could allow us to upload and store our consciousness in some form.
If you found this article interesting, the Union University Library has a book that goes into greater detail on the subject of possible future breakthroughs in these respective technologies linked below: