Robert Ettinger

03.05.2015 |

Episode #2 of the course “Significant futurists and their ideas”

American physicist and mathematician Robert Ettinger was a 20th-century scientific pioneer in the field of cryonics. Heavily influenced by science fiction short stories of the 1920s and 1930s, Ettinger believed after reading “The Jameson Satellite” by Neil R Jones that freezing and later reviving a corpse was not only scientifically possible but desirable as well. After being wounded in battle in World War II in Germany and receiving the Purple Heart, Ettinger recovered in the hospital for months, reading and expanding his scientific understanding.

He earned Master’s degrees in physics and mathematics and taught at his alma Mater, Wayne State University, while he developed and published his ideas on cryonics. Ettinger’s early efforts to promote his work didn’t gather much attention. He found the public’s reception full of skepticism and disinterest until science fiction writer Isaac Asimov endorsed his book The Prospect of Immortality. His ideas stemmed from the fact that aging and death came to be understood as processes influenced by outside factors—a process that could be slowed, reversed, stopped, and frozen, if understood. Ettinger believed that after death, people could be cryopreserved until later medical technology was advanced enough to revive them.

Robert Ettinger continued this message of achievable immortality with his work Man into Superman and founded the Cryonics Institute and the Immortalist Society. His second wife, Junod, was the editor of The Outlook, the longest-running cryonics magazine; she was also the CEO of the Immortalist Society. Ettinger was highly politically involved and spoke before Congress about the importance of scientific research. Ettinger, his two wives, and his mother were all cryopreserved after death.


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