Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool Air by H. P. Lovecraft as a precedent of cryonics

Cool air. Movie's cover

This last Saturday, "Robert Ettinger, a pioneer of the cryonics movement, has died and had his body stored at the facility he founded in the hope that medical technology will enable him to live again one day.
Ettinger died at home on Saturday, aged 92, in a suburb of Detroit after weeks of declining health. His body became the 106th to be frozen and stored at the Cryonics Institute, which he founded in 1976.
Ettinger, a university physics teacher, was seriously wounded during the second world war at the Battle of the Bulge and spent years in hospitals. The bone graft surgery that saved his legs inspired his optimism about the prospects of preserving life through technology, a statement from the institute said. .
His son said Ettinger was also inspired by science fiction writings about deepfreezing the dead, and expected researchers to make serious progress toward developing the idea. But when nothing seemed to be happening, he wrote a 1964 book, The Prospect of Immortality, introducing the concept of cryonics.
"If civilization endures, medical science should eventually be able to repair almost any damage to the human body, including freezing damage and senile debility or other cause of death," he wrote." 

Robert Ettinger. La Nacion archives

It's difficult to imagine that somebody could write about cryonics in the early SXX, but H. P. Lovecraft, the writer of horror tales left us " Cool Air", a clear precedent of cryonics.
Here, an excerpt from the story and the link to read it in full:

 Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937). Google images

"I might never have known Dr. Muñoz had it not been for the heart attack that suddenly seized me one forenoon as I sat writing in my room. Physicians had told me of the danger of those spells, and I knew there was no time to be lost; so remembering what the landlady had said about the invalid’s help of the injured workman, I dragged myself upstairs and knocked feebly at the door above mine. My knock was answered in good English by a curious voice some distance to the right, asking my name and business; and these things being stated, there came an opening of the door next to the one I had sought.
A rush of cool air greeted me; and though the day was one of the hottest of late June, I shivered as I crossed the threshold into a large apartment whose rich and tasteful decoration surprised me in this nest of squalor and seediness. A folding couch now filled its diurnal role of sofa, and the mahogany furniture, sumptuous hangings, old paintings, and mellow bookshelves all bespoke a gentleman’s study rather than a boarding-house bedroom. I now saw that the hall room above mine—the “leetle room” of bottles and machines which Mrs. Herrero had mentioned—was merely the laboratory of the doctor; and that his main living quarters lay in the spacious adjoining room whose convenient alcoves and large contiguous bathroom permitted him to hide all dressers and obtrusive utilitarian devices. Dr. Muñoz, most certainly, was a man of birth, cultivation, and discrimination.
The figure before me was short but exquisitely proportioned, and clad in somewhat formal dress of perfect cut and fit. A high-bred face of masterful though not arrogant expression was adorned by a short iron-grey full beard, and an old-fashioned pince-nez shielded the full, dark eyes and surmounted an aquiline nose which gave a Moorish touch to a physiognomy otherwise dominantly Celtiberian. Thick, well-trimmed hair that argued the punctual calls of a barber was parted gracefully above a high forehead; and the whole picture was one of striking intelligence and superior blood and breeding.
Nevertheless, as I saw Dr. Muñoz in that blast of cool air, I felt a repugnance which nothing in his aspect could justify. Only his lividly inclined complexion and coldness of touch could have afforded a physical basis for this feeling, and even these things should have been excusable considering the man’s known invalidism. It might, too, have been the singular cold that alienated me; for such chilliness was abnormal on so hot a day, and the abnormal always excites aversion, distrust, and fear."

Robert Ettinger. Picture from
Lea "Aire Frío¨ en español:

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