Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics

Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics

by Bob Nelson, Kenneth Bly, Sally Magana
     
 

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Bob Nelson was no ordinary T.V. repairman. One day he discovered a book that ultimately changed his entire life trajectory —The Prospect of Immortality by Professor Robert Ettinger. From it, he learned about cryonics: a process in which the body temperature is lowered during the beginning of the dying process to keep the brain intact, so that those frozen

Overview

Bob Nelson was no ordinary T.V. repairman. One day he discovered a book that ultimately changed his entire life trajectory —The Prospect of Immortality by Professor Robert Ettinger. From it, he learned about cryonics: a process in which the body temperature is lowered during the beginning of the dying process to keep the brain intact, so that those frozen could potentially be reanimated in the future. A world of possibilities unfolded for Nelson, as he relentlessly pursued cryonics and became the founder and President of the Cryonics Society of California. Working in coalition with a biophysicist, in 1967 Nelson orchestrated the freezing of Dr. James Bedford, the first human to be placed in cryonic suspension. Soon thereafter he began freezing others who sought his help, obtaining special capsules and an underground vault. Underfunded, Nelson struggled desperately, often dipping into his own savings, and taking extraordinary measures to maintain his patients in a frozen state. His fascinating memoir reveals his irrepressible passion for life and chronicles the complicated circumstances that comprised his adventures in cryonics.

Editorial Reviews

One book forever changed the life of T.V. repairman Bob Nelson. Sparked by a 1962 tome by "the father of cyronics," he became a vocal proponent in the movement for the low-temperature preservation of terminally ill humans in hopes of later recovery. Not content to be simply an advocate, he transformed himself into a determined would-be resurrectionist, arranging and sometimes personally funding cyronic suspensions. Risking ridicule, litigation, and financial ruin, he continued his "freezing for life" mission. Nelson's story, rendered here as a memoir, will become an Errol Morris dark comedy film starring Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, and Christopher Walken.

Publishers Weekly
02/03/2014
Opening with a melodramatic scene in which Nelson, known for his pioneering role in the cryonics movement, shrugs off his wife's admonition to leave things be ("it's time to face my demons," he says), co-author Bly's introduction sets the tone for a ponderous attempt by Nelson to set the record straight. The guilt that hangs over Nelson for the rest of the book is due to a lawsuit, and the news stories that accompanied it at the end of Nelson's run as the President of the Cryonics Society of California (CSC), a nonprofit whose goal was to educate as well as freeze customers in the hopes of bringing them back to life when a cure could one day be found for their ailments. When Nelson first became obsessed with the cryonics, he was elated to find a like-minded group eager to make the concept a reality. Collaborations with scientists followed, culminating in the freezing of Dr. James Bedford, whose body was briefly stored in a garage until it was moved to a mortuary. The CSC began accepting other customers, many of whom were likely not aware of the almost comedic methods of transporting bodies in Nelson's pickup, frantic runs for dry ice to keep the bodies frozen, leaking capsules, and other malfunctions. Readers whose only knowledge of cryonics involves Walt Disney will appreciate the scientific logic and Nelson's overview of the procedures involved, but those with just a passing interest will be better served waiting for the movie. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"The conquest of outer space and the conquest of mortality. Bob Nelson's odyssey is a quintessential American story––a story about frontiers, exploration, and dreams. Part inventor, part futurist, part entrepreneur, Bob Nelson set out to show that death––even if it could not be defied––could be challenged. A story of unexpected, unintended, and remarkable consequences. A rich morality tale. But ultimately, a story about how the seemingly far-fetched ideas of the past can become a vision of the future." —Errol Morris, film director
Library Journal
03/15/2014
Nelson (We Froze the First Man) offers a firsthand account of cryonics from its inception in the 1960s. As a TV repairman with no prior education on the subject, Nelson nevertheless became deeply involved in cryonics, or the practice of freezing bodies in the hope of resuscitating them at some future time when their mortal diseases may be cured. The author led the Cryonics Society of California, and froze the first man, woman, and child in human history. He took responsibility for maintaining several frozen patients at his cryonics vault in Chatsworth, CA, but, owing to limited funds, he abandoned the project, becoming the subject of controversy in the 1980s when his clients sued him for misrepresentation. His book provides insight into the financial and emotional costs of cryonics. However, it comments only briefly on matters outside Nelson's scope—the scientific nuances of cryonics, arguments against the practice, and the broader historical context. VERDICT Nelson presents an absorbing glimpse into his personal contradictions and motivations; this is not an objective study of cyronics. There may be demand for this book as its release is timed with a movie starring Paul Rudd about Nelson's efforts. Serious readers may wish to supplement this account with others to understand better the legal, ethical, philosophical, and scientific context surrounding cryonics.—Talea Anderson, College Place, WA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762792955
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
03/18/2014
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,250,554
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Bob Nelson is the author of We Froze the First Man and was the president of the Cryonics Society of California. In 1967, he froze the first man. He has made appearances on Regis Philbin, Phil Donahue, and NPR's This American Life. His story is being adapted into a major motion picture, featuring a star-studded cast. He lives in Oceanside, California.

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