Cryonicist's Horizons

Rate this Article

1 - Didn't like it | 5 - Very good!

Thank you for your feedback!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Not ready to sign up for Cryonics yet?

Support Biostasis research by becoming a Tomorrow Fellow. Get perks and more.
Become a Fellow

Curious Cases of the First-Ever Human Cryopreservation

Discover the tragic failures, unlikely heroes and comedic occurrences that surrounded Bedford’s pioneering act.

We’ve taken a look at the story of James Bedford and the first successful human cryopreservation, a tale to behold by itself. But what’s a good story without some interesting footnotes? Who are the unsung heroes of this tale? What did the news have to say about Bedford’s preservation? And why did an observer call the night following the act the “movie of the year”? Let’s find out!

Life still writes the best stories

Before Bedford’s Preservation - Unsuccessful First Attempts

Free cryopreservation

The curiosities began in June 1965, when Evan Cooper, founder of the Life Extension Society, offered to conduct the very first human cryopreservation for free. Undeniably upset that 2 years after the release of Robert Ettinger’s cryonics book “The Prospect of Immortality”, no such attempt has been made yet, Cooper wanted to take things into his own hands. He used the theory of human cryopreservation detailed in Ettinger’s book to put together a “cryopreservation kit” and soon after made his offer public.

No person ever volunteered.

Discord at the hospital

A year prior to Cooper’s offer, Wilma Jean McLaughlin got close to being preserved by him and his group. Even though circumstances around the case aren’t completely clean, multiple reports from different sources confirm outside interference as the reason the near-attempt didn’t bear fruit. 

Reports included the following statements (that might or might not be true): 

  • “Relatives and minister were against it.”
  • “Local physicians would not aid the procedure.”
  • “Hospital administration refused to go along with the procedure.“
  • “Preservation capsule wasn’t ready. “
  • “Minister warned of laws not being in place.” 
  • “Subject of freezing was not aware of husbands plan to freeze her.”

Cryopreservation can only be successful if everyone involved is pulling in the same direction

Untimely demise of a firm believer

Engineer, futurist, lecturer and author Dandridge MacFarlan Cole was a big fan of Ettingers book. Often he would talk about his wish to be cryopreserved to his family and peers and even wrote about cryopreservation himself in his published book “Beyond Tomorrow”. 

On Oct 30th, 1965 Cole suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 44. Ettinger was called some hours later, informing him of the death, but Cole’s relatives hadn’t initiated any cryopreservation preparation to honor his wish, leading to his burial some days later.

Bedford’s Preservation - The most unlikely of helpers

Before his death, Dandridge M. Cole talked about the topic of cryonics to his close friend Robert Prehoda, who also decided to write a book revolving around the subject matter: “Suspended Animation”. Prehoda, however, was a determined opponent of cryopreservation and did not speak positively about it in his book. Cole’s failed preservation attempt was mentioned in Prehoda’s publication, where he wrote: “Rational counsel prevailed and Dan was given a dignified burial.”

By a curious twist of fate, Prehoda would be part of the team that preserved James Bedford some years later, despite not believing in the practice. Even though the two looked back on a history of past disagreements, Cooper’s report about Bedfords cryopreservation read: “ [...] First, Robert Prehoda and Dr. Brunol are certainly to be congratulated for arranging and seeing the perfusion and freezing through. In fact if it were not for Prehoda the freezing might not, probably would not, have taken place. [...]” [1]

What makes this turn of events even more obscure was Prehoda’s previous statement: “[...] to freeze the dying or dead at the present time (is) totally unfeasible. [...] “, dated only one year before his major positive influence in the first successful human cryopreservation.

Robert Prehoda

Darling, why is there a frozen body in our garage?

But the story of Prehoda’s involvement didn’t end there. At the time of Bedford’s preservation, the cryonic capsule (an early prototype of the now called “cryogenic storage dewars”) and storage location were still not ready yet. Because of this, Robert Nelson, then president of the Life Extension Society, stored Bedford’s body in a temporary cooling box - inside a station wagon in Prehoda’s garage.

The report reads: “Eventually Prehoda’s wife found out about the body in the station wagon in the garage and our reporter indicates that she got pretty hysterical. [...] Our observer gave up describing the scene in detail at that point saying it could only be described as hysterical and chaotic. He said that if he had [had] a camera it would have made the movie of the year.”

After Bedford’s Preservation - Court Battles of the Bedford Family

James Bedford left $100,000 to cryonics research in his will, but that money ended up being used for an entirely different matter. Bedford's wife and son found themselves forced to use this amount multiple times over in court, having to defend his will and his cryopreservation against accusations made by other relatives. These allegations mainly revolved around the absence of a traditional burial and legality of the procedure. Multiple court trials were held over the timespan of a couple of years.

When Bedford’s wife, Ruby, died in 1987 Alcor Life Extension Foundation assumed all financial responsibilities associated with Bedford cryonic suspension.

After Bedford’s Preservation - Public Attention

Misinformed news coverage

Newspapers were quick to jump on the story, yet gave a generally unengaged and uninformed account of the preservation. The Los Angeles Herald Examiner and The Washington Post both wrongfully claimed Bedford was “deep-frozen” immediately after death. While it is true that preservation procedures, that includes the cooling of the body, were initiated quickly after death, Bedford was not, and could have not, been completely frozen in an instant. 

Additionally The Los Angeles Herald Examiner spoke of a mechanical heart machine, attached to Bedfords heart, being frozen with the body. A heart machine was used during cryopreservation procedure, to slow down biological decay, but was then removed to complete the freezing.

Even the biggest news publications can get some unreliable intel sometimes. Always fact-check yourself!

Unfortunate timing

In the same week articles about Bedfords freezing were published an unfortunate incident occurred at a company you might have heard of before: NASA

In an event called “Apollo 1 Incident”, a failed rocket launch resulted in 3 astronauts being burned alive, resulting in massive public uproar. To the demise of cryonics awareness, this took a lot of attention away from the first human cryopreservation. Little word had made the rounds about this human achievement as the public focused on human failure. The bad press surrounding the Apollo 1 mission is still widely known, while cryopreservation remains a niche subject to this day.

The Organ Preservation Alliance (OPA), founded in 2014 to advance cryopreservation research, was born from a NASA program


As you can see, most curiosities surrounding this first case are riddled with complications. Medical research on cryonics was still in its infancy, unlike today, where entities like Tomorrow Bio are investing a lot of resources into it. Cryopreservation remains a challenging procedure to this day, but we are sufficiently prepared to tackle possible issues. We have analyzed and learned from the last 50 years since the very first procedure, and adapted our procedure in the most efficient ways.  Our standby team is ready to come to your aid and begin the process of Biostasis immediately after legal death. Thanks to groundbreaking biostasis research, we can now cryopreserve patients with very little damage to their cells and provide storage that is built to last for centuries (not a car inside a garage, we promise). Furthermore, over 500 successful preservations have already been conducted worldwide, and medical knowledge of the field increases steadily. You want to know more about what we do at Tomorrow Bio? Schedule a call with us any time! We are happy to talk to you!

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