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Publishers WeeklyAuthor Haycock, a Greenwich-based historian of culture and medicine, surveys Western civilization's hopes and schemes for longevity over the past four centuries, beginning with the last days of Sir Francis Bacon (who caught a fatal chill while stuffing a dead chicken with snow, so that its viability "might be long preserved") and ending with Dr. Aubrey De Grey, whose current, controversial research into stem cells, he says, will eventually result in human lifespans of a thousand years or more. Along the way he writes about Benjamin Franklin, who delivered his famous "death and taxes" line just before his death (at 84), the longevity of characters from the Old Testament, Mary Shelley's vision of electric "reanimation," and a huge range of lesser-known figures obsessed with the mystery of the human life span-what's "natural," what's "impossible," what's "normal," and what can be done about it. According to Haycock, now in his 30s, chances are better than ever that he'll live to see the 22nd Century; his own book shows he may have some misplaced optimism, but he also has an entertaining read with lots of fascinating sidelights.
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