Cryonic Life Extension


Cryonic Life Extension

Segall Garage-Laboratory: 1098 Euclid Ave.

Garages have served as labs for many inventors. In northern California Bill Hewlett, David Packard, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak launched stunning innovations from garage-laboratories. Some believe that an even greater invention emerged from such a laboratory in Berkeley, one that gave the promise of everlasting life.

Modern day cryonics (from the Greek “krio:” cold) was framed by a Michigan math and physics teacher, C. W. Ettinger, who asserted, “Most people would rather be alive than dead.” Ettinger’s The Prospect of Immortality (1964) emboldened cryonicists to build an industry based on preserving human remains in stainless steel vats filled with liquid nitrogen (“cryocapsules”) in the hope that future medical advances, like finding the “fountain of youth” or a cure for cancer, would make life restoration possible.

Berkeley has been a cryonics center since the 1966 founding of the Bay Area Cryonics Society (BACS). Life extension researcher Dr. Paul Segall, born in 1943 and some say “deanimated” in 2003, received his Ph.D in physiology from UC Berkeley in 1977. In the late 70s, as a lead researcher for BACS, Segall began experiments in his garage-laboratory using “blood substitutes” with cryoprotective properties on anesthetized animals. Though the first hamsters and dogs died, in the mid-80s Segall successfully infused a beagle named Miles with an experimental blood substitute and revived him after the heart-lung machine keeping his cooled body alive was disconnected for 20 minutes. Success brought media prominence with over one hundred TV and radio interviews, including appearances on the Phil Donahue Show and Good Morning America. The media portrayed Segall as potentially forging a new path toward fulfilling man’s age-old desire to cheat death.

Some have argued that Segall’s work was not an advance over previous, less heralded, research. A retired psychology professor from Glendale, California was the first to be cryonically frozen in 1967, and by 2013 it was estimated that all or a portion of about 270 people were in cryopreservation. The most famous, perhaps, is the head of baseball great Ted Williams, whose brain it is hoped will be revived for digital consciousness when scientific advances allow for uploading its contents. Cryopreservation isn’t cheap. San Leandro’s Trans Time, Inc. charges $150,000 for whole-body suspension. Giving new meaning to the term “life insurance,” payment plans can be arranged on a monthly pay-as-you-go basis.

Contributed by Robert Kehlmann, 2014

  • Segall Garage-Laboratory, 1098 Euclid Ave., photo (2014) R. Kehlmann

  • Fluids used in Segall's cryonics experiments, photo (1992) courtesy

  • Segall with family and Miles in Berkeley garage laboratory, photo (1987) courtesty

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society