What would you say is the normal span of human life? Seventy or eighty years?
According to the computations of biologists, the life span of any species is from seven to fourteen times the period an individual of the species takes to reach maturity. We mature between 20 and 25 years of age; our expectation of life could be 280, on that reckoning.
Some gerontologists (“old age” specialists) put it much higher. Dr. Christopherson of London Hospital says: ”A man might live 300, 400, or even 1000 years, if the life-sustaining elements were present.”
So a life span of 180 years is a very reasonable target.
First of all, let us establish that there is nothing freakish in the idea of this length of life. It is only because it is new to us that we are likely to think so. Scientists tell us that there is nothing in the nature of protoplasm which demands a wearing out. And humans, of course, are protoplasm.
Take a look at some of our relatives, who have been going—it's a fair assumption—almost since the beginning of time. There is the protoplasm called Paramecium Aurelia, or “immortal protoplasm.” In 1911, L. L. Woodruff and R. Erdman began experiments with it. By 1928, 8000 generations had been registered, but it was still as good as new. It showed no sign of decay, senile or otherwise.
In the plant world, there is apparent ' ‘immortality*' also. One of the cacti goes on living, it seems, forever. So do the giant sequoia trees of California. There are orange trees in the orangerie of the palace of Versailles said to have been planted by Eleanor of Castile. In Mexico there is a cypress which was a contemporary of Cortez. Baobabs, found chiefly in Africa, can live for 6000 years.
Some fish are Methuselahs. Carp and pike can live 300 years, if not indefinitely. A few hundred years is nothing to a crocodile—in Africa, crocodiles have been found which are believed to be about 1700 years old. Wild boars can live to about the 300-year mark; donkeys, swans and parrots are often centenarians. Tortoises sometimes survive for several centuries.
And even we, the human race, can put in a few records. Methuselah nearly reached Dr. Christopherson's suggested limit of 1000 years; according to the Old Testament, he was 969 when he died. Joseph lived to be 110, Sarah to 197, Abraham to 275. Moses, who began all this three-score-years-and-ten life-span business, lived to be 127 himself. And at that age, so the Bible says, “his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated.”
The ancient Greek race, the Pelasgians, would have considered that to die at 70 was to die in the cradle, almost. Plato, Xenophon, and Pythagorus are among the writers who tell us that Pelasgian life expectancy was at least 200 years. Like Moses, to the last their “natural force was not abated.’’ And their hair did not turn gray.
Galen, the great physician, lived 140 years. Socrates died at 106 (and, but for that cup of hemlock, might have made his second century), Sophocles at 130. Pliny tells us of a musician who, at the age of 150, looked no more than 50.Then there was the midwife who attended Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I; she lived to be 103. In 1500 a man called Jenkins was born in Yorkshire. He died at the age of 170. Thomas Parr's birthplace was London, the date 1588. He died 207 years later, also in London. There is a record of a marriage which just missed a triple diamond celebration. It lasted 147 years. The husband died at 173, the wife at 184. At 150 years of age, these people are said to have looked as if they were about 50.
Roger Bacon, who studied longevity, believed that a man's span should be, normally, 1000 years.
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