Robert Ettinger, the founding father of the cryonics movement that believes in the low-temperature preservation of the dead with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future, died on Saturday. He was 92.
Ettinger died in his home in the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township. His health had been declining in recent weeks, his son David Ettinger said. Ettinger's body became the 106th to be stored at the Cryonics Institute which he founded in 1976.
Etiinger, the son of Jewish immigrants, served in the U.S. military during World War II and was severely wounded in battle in Germany. While recuperating in hospitals, Ettinger nurtured the idea of preserving life through technology.
Ettinger who grew up on Science fiction was especially inspired by a Neil R. Jones story, "The Jameson Satellite, which he read at the age of 12. The tale, about a man who has his corpse placed into orbit in the belief that the cold of outer space would preserve him and was discovered millions of years later by an advanced race of aliens who put the man's brains in a mechanical body, got Ettinger brooding on the possibilities of cryonics in the 1930's. It was Ettinger's founding document on cryonics, "The Prospect of Immortality" that made him an overnight celebrity and garner a lot of media attention. Following the publication of the document, which describes the practical and moral aspects of deep-freezing the dead, Ettinger made a lot of television appearances with David Frost, Johnny Carson, Steve Allen, among others.
"If civilization endures, medical science should eventually be able to repair almost any damage to the human body," he wrote, "including freezing damage and senile debility or other cause of death."
He added: "No matter what kills us, whether old age or disease, and even if freezing techniques are still crude when we die, sooner or later our friends of the future should be equal to the task of reviving and curing us."
"The Prospect of Immortality" led to various Cryonics societies springing up in New York and California. In 1966 Ettinger was elected the President of the Cryonics Society of Michigan which was later transformed under his direction into the Cryonics Institute in 1976. More than 100 bodies are stored at the institute in giant vats of liquid nitrogen, at 320 degrees below zero. The price for preservation at the institute is about $30,000, including perpetual care. Ettinger's mother became the first to be preserved there. He went on to preserve his first and second wife at the Institute. The Cryonics Institute has 900 members. Similar facilities for preserving dead bodies operate in Arizona, California and Russia.
Ettinger who taught physics at Wayne State University strongly believed that someday medical science and technology would become sophisticated to heal the preserved bodies and bring them back to life.
"He did what he thought was necessary and appropriate and didn't worry much about what people thought.The people who are scoffers are like the people who said heavier-than-air flight won't work," David Ettinger told the Associated Press.