The First Cryonics Newsletter

The cryonics movement is often thought to have been launched with the publication of Robert Ettinger’s The Prospect of Immortality by Doubleday, which occurred on June 5, 1964. Before that, however, there was a fledgling cryonics movement (though the term “cryonics” itself would not be coined until August 1965). The driving force behind this first, public foray into the physical struggle for immortality was an enigmatic figure named Evan Cooper, who would eventually be lost at sea shortly after he had destroyed his private papers.

Cooper, who was born in 1926, began to think about the freezing idea sometime around 1957, and over the next five years completed a short book, Immortality Physically, Scientifically, Now (PDF) which was privately circulated in a small quantity late in 1962. Sometime in the next six months he heard of Ettinger’s independent efforts, which had resulted in a preliminary version of Prospect around the time Cooper finished his book, and the two corresponded. Word was received of Doubleday’s intentions to publish an expanded version of Ettinger’s book, and plans were laid for an organized effort to promote the idea. The first organizational meeting (which saw the creation of the Life Extension Society or LES), was to coincide as far as possible with publication of the book. But delay in the publication led to the meeting being held some months earlier, Dec. 28-29, 1963, in Washington, D.C., where Ev Cooper lived. This was followed by the first issue of the first newsletter devoted to the freezing idea, which was dated January 1964 and bore the title, Life Extension Society Newsletter. Three pages in length, it mainly dealt, as might be expected, with the conference that had just been held and the organization that was formed as a consequence. In January the following year the title would metamorphose to the inspiring imperative, Freeze-Wait-Reanimate, where it remained.

For over two years LESN/FWR was the only newsletter devoted to the cryonics idea, and it endured for several more years, until issue no. 60 dated September 1969. Many important events would be chronicled in its pages, including the successes with revival of frozen cat brains (September 1965 and later), the wild cryonics conference in early 1966, the first human freezing later that year, and the first freezing under controlled conditions, that of James Bedford in 1967. For awhile the newsletter enjoyed a huge success, with circulation said to number around 1,000—quite a generous figure even by today’s (2011) standards. This however would not continue for long. LES was beset with problems which became increasingly severe as interest in it waned and volunteer help became scarce. When it effectively shut down the newsletter died with it, its issues remaining as an important legacy of early cryonics history.

The complete back issues of the Life Extension Society Newsletter and Freeze-Wait-Reanimate are available in PDF (400 MB) here.

From “For The Record,” Cryonics, December 1990, updated by the author, January 2011.