The History of the Quest for Immortality

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There’s a lot in the news at the moment about the search for immortality. People are living longer, and they say that someone has already been born that will live to be 150-200 years old. In fact the main funders for the search for immortality are billionaires.  When you stop and think and think about it, the reasons is obvious. They have more to lose when they die. You can’t take it with you! The most you can do is bequeath it to your heirs.. and you won’t be able to see them enjoy it. So billionaires want to live longer so they can enjoy their wealth for longer. That’s why they spend so much on research, looking for the elixir of eternal life.

Was it always the way that the rich sought paths to immortality to longer enjoy their richness? Yes. But they got ripped off a lot more!

In ancient China many all-powerful emperors died from consuming mercury-based potions given to them under the promise that it would make them live forever. Mercury is indeed a strange-looking substance- a shiny silver liquid metal. Looks like it could be the elixir of life… but no. It gives a slow and agonising departure from this world.

Fast-forward to 1492. There on his deathbed was Pope Innocent VIII. Three 10 year old boys were paid a ducat each to donate their blood to try to keep the old god-botherer alive. The boys died. And of course so did the Pontiff- probably from blood poisoning. I wonder which of them went to heaven?

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During the next two centuries centuries, it was the turn of thousands of European alchemists to hoodwink and swindle rich aristocrats with bogus potions for eternal life.  These elixirs (which often included mercury and arsenic) often gave off noxious and poisonous vapours that would eventually kill the alchemist (as well as failing to prolong the life of the Aristo).

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After World War I, thousands of rich old men (probably the donkeys who led the lions) opted for a more biological and glandular fountain of youth. They arranged for chimpanzee testicles to be grafted into their scrotums at Sergei Voronoff’s exclusive medical clinic on the French Riviera. Ouch. Must have been an issue for the undertaker- whether to remove the clearly failed extra-testicular activity, or leave it for all to see as they lay naked in the coffin! In the picture below Sergei and his brother George perform their quad-gonads operation.

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In 1971,  researchers declared that science would unravel all the mysteries of ageing within five years.  All you needed was the appropriate injection of finance…  Alas, that didn’t come to be. In fact five years later all we got was the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that “human life could be extended to 800 years.”  That same year, an outfit called Microwave Instrument Co. in Del Mar, California, said they’d have immortality drugs on the market within three years. They saw a connection between agitating the molecules of blood through microwaves and immortality. Oops. Next!

Just imagine if a rich person funded the creation of an immortality drug, and it succeeded. Would he or she share it with the rest of us for free? Come on! The only people who would benefit would be fellow billionaires.
I guess the moral of this article is that if you want to live forever, you’d better start getting very rich very soon!
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