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The First Cryonically Preserved Human’s Fifty-Year Journey to Immortality

James Bedford was a psychology professor at the University of California. Prior to his death from cancer, Bedford expressed his desire to be cryogenically frozen. His hope was that his body could be repaired and his consciousness revived with more advanced future technology. Bedford willed $100,000 for the preservation of his body.

However, when he died in 1967 everyone was caught off guard. The science of cryogenics was little more than a fringe idea and there was no cryonics industry equipped to preserve a body. To honor his wishes, Bedford’s nurse reportedly ran up and down the block collecting ice from home freezers of neighbors. She then called the Life Extension Society, founded to promote cryonic suspension of people, and Bedford became the first human to be cryogenically frozen.

After 50 years the cost of preserving his body has long exhausted the $100,000 Bedford had set aside. Frustrated by the high cost of storage, Bedford’s son moved his father’s body to a self-storage facility and periodically topped the container with liquid nitrogen himself. In 1982, Bedford’s body was entrusted to Alcor Life Extension Foundation, but how well his body was preserved is open to question.

With the prospect of reviving a frozen body so improbable that there are many within the scientific community who believe that selling even the hope is unethical. Even if a medical breakthrough is made, it is highly unlikely that Bedford, with his crude vitrification process, could ever be brought back to life.

But the hope that the future will change continues to drive customers to cryonics facilities. Over 300 bodies and brains are currently preserved in between them, with 3,000 more signed up to join them.


Kaushik Patowary, “James Hiram Bedford: The First Person To Be Cryogenically Preserved,” AmusingPlanet (2-5-19); Corinne Purtill, “Fifty years frozen: The world’s first cryonically preserved human’s disturbing journey to immortality,” Quartz (1-12-17)

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