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Preserving Bodies in a Deep Freeze: 50 Years Later

(Inside Science) -- Early in the 1960s, a group of enthusiasts advanced the concept of freezing humans as soon as they die, in hopes of reviving them after the arrival of medical advances able to cure the conditions that killed them. The idea went into practice for the first time 50 years ago. On Jan. 12, 1967, James Bedford, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, became the first person to be "cyropreserved." A small team of doctors and other enthusiasts froze him a few hours after he died from liver cancer that had spread to his lungs. A few days later the team placed the body into an insulated container packed with dry ice. Later still, Bedford was immersed in liquid nitrogen in a large Dewar container. Fifteen years on, after a series of moves from one cryopreservation facility to another, his body found a home at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it still resides. By current standards of cryonics, the procedure was remarkably untidy and disorganized. Nevertheless, a visual evaluation of Bedford's condition in 1991 found that his body had remained frozen and suffered no obvious deterioration. "There's no date set for another examination," said R. Michael Perry, care services manager at Alcor. But as promoters of cryopreservation celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bedford's death and freezing -- known to some as "Bedford Day" -- they emphasize improvements to the freezing and preservation procedures that Bedford's experiences advanced. The community is also undergoing a significant change in its expectations for reviving frozen patients. Rather than planning for a Lazarus-like resuscitation of the entire body, some proponents of the technology focus more on saving individuals' stored memories, and perhaps incorporating them into robots. Read More: Live Science

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