Cryonicist's Horizons

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A Brief History Of Cryonics

Do you know when Cryonics started? Or who the first “frozen” person was?

So, you’ve heard about cryonics and understand what it’s about, but do you know how and when it all began? Cryonics may seem like a recent technological development, but it’s been around longer than you think. Let’s dive into the history of cryonics, and see how it began to where it is now. 

Robert Ettinger

A photograph of Robert Ettinger, the 'father of cryonics'..
Robert Ettinger, the “father of cryonics”.

Let’s start at the beginning. Robert Ettinger, the “father of cryonics” was born in 1918 in New Jersey. As a child, he loved reading science fiction magazines. The story that impacted Ettinger the most was the 1931 story The Jameson Satellite


The story chronicles an eccentric billionaire, Professor Jameson, who decided to launch himself into space. His nephew, Douglas, does this after his uncle’s death. The reason for this? Prof. Jameson wants to be preserved by the freezing temperatures in space. By chance, the billionaire’s body is found by an alien-cyborg mechanic who places his brain into a robotic body and “revives” him, after being frozen in space for 40 million years. This idea stayed with young Ettinger. He hoped that one day scientists would be capable of replicating such technology before he grew old. 


Ettinger served as a Second Lieutenant Infantryman during the Second World War. During the Battle of the Bulge towards the end of the war, Ettinger was struck by artillery fire, which severely damaged his leg. So much so that the prospect of him walking again was put into question.

Dissatisfied with medical capabilities and technology at the time, Ettinger’s father sought out state of the art solutions to help his son. Eventually, he came across the technique of bone grafting (the process of transplanting bone tissue to damaged areas or joints). It was this breakthrough technology that saved Ettinger’s legs, and sparked his interest in the potential of medicine.

The Father of Cryonics

After the war, Ettinger attended University in Michigan, earning two master’s degrees: one in Physics and one in Mathematics. It was during this time that the field of cryonics began to take shape.

In 1964, Ettinger published his famous work, The Prospects of Immortality. In it, Ettinger outlined how people could be potentially preserved through the application of low temperatures. 

“The fact: At very low temperatures it is possible, right now, to preserve dead people with essentially no deterioration, indefinitely. If civilization endures, medical science should eventually be able to repair almost any damage to the human body, including freezing damage and senile debility or other cause of death. ” (p.11)

The text encapsulated much of his scientific knowledge and love for the subject, as well as the potential impact such a field of science could have on the world. The book was well received, and earned Ettinger his title of “father of cryonics”. However, while he may have been the architect for cryonic’s inception, he wasn’t the first to benefit from it.

James Bedford

Portrait of a young James Bedford.
The first man to be cryopreserved (Image Source: CISION PR Newswire, 2015)

James Bedford was the first person to undergo cryopreservation. In his late 60s, Bedford was diagnosed with cancer in his kidneys that spread to his lungs. At the time, cryonics was taking off, and Bedford volunteered to be cryopreserved in 1966. He died in 1967 at the age of 73 and was cryopreserved as per his wishes.

The First Human Cryopreservation

What made Bedford decide on cryonics? In 1965, an early cryonics organization called the Life Extension Society offered a free service for anyone that wanted to have it done. However initially, no one took up the organization’s offer. A year later, Bedbord volunteered for this new procedure.

Since he was the first person to ever experience human cryopreservation, the methods and techniques at the time were basic compared to modern cryonics practices. At the time, vitrification was not yet possible, which meant that he experienced complications in his first few years of storage. Eventually, his body was moved to Alcor’s facility in Arizona in the US in 1982

A few years later in 1991, Bedford’s body was transferred from an individual horizontal dewar to a multi-person vertical dewar. A cryogenic storage dewar is a vacuum container used for long-term storage of cryopreserved patients in liquid nitrogen. In the process, his body was examined to assess his condition. The findings suggested that his body was doing well considering early cryopreservation technologies at the time of his death.


Robert Nelson
Robert Nelson helped perform the first human cryopreservation on James Bedford (Source: Dailymail, 2017)

Not all of history are triumphs and successes, and neither is the history of cryonics. For all of the field’s successes, there are also lessons to be learned. This can be said for the Chatsworth facility.

In the early days of cryonics, it was not easy to preserve people, and even harder to maintain them in that state indefinitely. At the time, bodies were kept cool via dry ice at mortuaries. Not exactly ideal compared to our modern long-term storage facilities. However, there was one man who attempted to resolve this issue: Robert Nelson, one of the men who had helped carry out the cryopreservation of James Bedford. 

Nelson offered to maintain individuals who had signed up with various cryonics societies for cryopreservation. He bought an underground vault at a cemetery in Chatsworth in northern Los Angeles, California. A total of nine cryopreserved patients were transferred to Chatsworth. However, Nelson began to realize that limited access to funds restricted his capabilities of maintaining patients.


The Chatsworth Disaster

In 1971, a vacuum pump failure at the Chatsworth facility meant that all 9 cryopreserved people thawed out. As a result, Nelson was sued by the families of the victims and forced out of the industry that he tried so hard to help grow.

However, there are lessons to be learned from failure. The Chatsworth Disaster taught the cryonics industry valuable lessons about long-term care, financial management, and security. These lessons are still critical to cryonics today so that a disaster like this is prevented


Alcor Life Extension Foundation cryogenic storage dewars.
Alcor is one of the longest running cryonics companies in the United States.

As the popularity of cryonics grew after The Prospects of Immortality was published, new organizations emerged hoping to make this a reality. One such organization was Alcor Life Extension.

Alcor was founded by Fred and Linda Chamberlain in 1972. The Californian company took its name from a star that had just the right brightness that it was used as a test for clear vision. A fitting metaphor for those that believe in the prospects of cryonics.

In 1976, Fred’s father was Alcor’s first cryopreservation patient. Over the course of decades, Alcor began to experience a slow growth in cryonics members, with around 50 in 1985 to more than 300 members by 1990. Alongside this rapid growth were fears that the facility in California wouldn’t be able to accommodate more members. As a result, Alcor relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1994

How many cryonics patients does Alcor have? According to their statistics, they have nearly 1400 members, and 200 patients currently cryopreserved.

Cryonics Institute

Cryonics Institute's storage dewars in their long-term storage facility.
The father of cryonics, Robert Ettinger, is housed in CI’s facility. 

In Detroit, Michigan, Robert Ettinger founded the Cryonics Institute (CI) in 1976. This non-profit organization was created to make Ettinger’s work about cryonics a reality. He wanted to build an organization that provided whole-body cryopreservation service for a reasonable price. He served as president there until 2003.

In 2011, he was cryopreserved at CI where he remains to this day. CI offers the most affordable cryopreservation plan in the United States, starting at $28,000 - however, this price does not cover standby, stabilization, and transport (SST) to their facility. Currently, CI has nearly 1,900 members with 229 patients in cryopreservation, including up to 228 pets.

Tomorrow Bio

The exterior of Tomorrow Bio's Berlin headquarters
Today, Tomorrow Bio is one of the fastest growing cryonics providers in Europe.

Our CEO and co-founder Dr. Emil Kendziorra was inspired by Ettinger’s The Prospects of Immortality that he knew human cryopreservation deserved his full attention. In 2019, he along with Fernando Azevedo Pinheiro founded Tomorrow Bio in Berlin, Germany. In addition to this, Dr. Kendziorra along with other individuals, established the European Biostasis Foundation (EBF) in Basel, Switzerland. This was to provide cryopreservation services, but also facilitate research and development within the field of cryonics. Tomorrow Bio is one of two cryonics institutions operating within Europe. Currently, Tomorrow Bio has around 250 members signed up for cryopreservation.


Cryonics has come a long way since its inception in the 1960s. What started out as a possible scientific field of study has since expanded both as a sector and technologically. It’s only been over 60 years since Ettinger’s The Prospects of Immortality was published. Imagine where cryonics will be in another 60 years time?

What do you think the future of cryonics will be? Let us know on our Discord server! Want to learn more about cryonics? Check out Tomorrow Insight for our latest updates, as well as our E-Book on cryonics, and see you tomorrow!

Tomorrow Bio is the worlds fastest growing human cryopreservation provider. Our all inclusive cryopreservation plans start at just 31€ per month. Learn more here.