Cryonics and Adventure


From the Frank Cole film 'Life Without Death'

Cryonics has sometimes been been said to be motivated by man's fear of death. Those who say that don't know much about the cryonics community and its supporters. Advocates of cryonics include sportsman, soldiers, explorers -- adventurers. Individuals who see themselves not as fleeing from death but rushing towards life. And individuals who have left a vivid public record of bravery.

The tradition may be said to have begun with the man widely regarded as the father of cryonics -- physics professor and mathematician Robert Ettinger. A decorated veteran of the Second World War, he received the Purple Heart for injuries received in battle in Germany. His thoughts on cryonics and the human condition took on much of their form as he lay in bed in Battle Creek, Michigan, recovering from surgery needed to treat the wounds he received in that conflict.

The first patient cryopreserved by Alcor, and its first member, was another military veteran -- retired U.S. Colonel Frederick R. Chamberlain Jr., who left Brown University to join the U.S. Army at the beginning of World War One. During the Twenties he worked on dam construction, as a gold prospector, and rode as a cowboy in Arizona. He returned to military service in World War Two and was placed in charge of an experimental radio network protecting Washington, D.C. He later served in the Third Army as General Staff Artillery Officer under General George Patton. After the war he became a gentleman farmer in Virginia, and, with his son Fred Chamberlain III and his son's wife Linda, was one of the critical figures involved in Alcor and the beginnings of the cryonics movement.

Another cryonicist widely reknowned for his courage and daring was Canadian film-maker Frank Cole. Cole's passion for life included a passion for the desert and filmmaking. He was the first North American to travel from Mauritania on the west coast of Africa to Sudan on the east by camel, and the first North American to cross the Sahara desert alone. Documenting his travels resulted in a ten-year project, the film LIFE WITHOUT DEATH, which premiered in Ottawa just days after his own murder in the Saharan desert by bandits. A member of both Alcor and the Cryonics Institute during his lifetime, his remains are now said to be in cryopreservation.

And then there's Ted Williams -- 'the greatest hitter who ever lived,' who received combat training and served in World War Two as a second lieutenant and Naval flight instructor, and who at thirty-three, married and with a daughter, joined the Marines and flew 39 combat missions in Korea, where he was commissioned a captain and served as wingman to John Glenn, the future astronaut and US Senator.

On his third mission, on Feb. 16, 1953, while flying a Navy F-9 Panther to scout a tank and infantry training school near Pyongyang, Williams was hit by small-arms fire that knocked out his radio and compass, and disabled his landing gear. He managed to land the aircraft while it was on fire, and barely getting free before it was consumed in flames.

"Everybody tries to make a hero out of me over the Korean thing," Williams said. "I was no hero." President George Bush thought otherwise. On Nov. 18, 1991, the President presented Williams with the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. Bush saluted him as a "twice-tested war hero" and "true champion."

Courage? Those who have made the choice the cryonics are no strangers to making brave choices, or adventurous ones. Perhaps that explains why their imagination was touched by cryonics -- the ultimate adventure.




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