Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 3 » Prolongevity - Early Prolongevity Writers, Scientific Prolongevity, Anti-longevity Literature, Conclusion

Prolongevity - Conclusion

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In recent times, the hope of prolongevity advocates appears to have some factual support. In the twentieth century, for the first time, the increase in life expectancy has occurred at the end of the life cycle, rather than simply being the result of decreasing child mortality. In 1995, the average life expectancy for men was 72.5; for women, it was 79.3. As the number of centenarians continues to rise, the fastest growing segment of the American population has become those over the age of eighty-five. Moreover, large segments of the elderly population are believed to be in far better health than earlier generations. Such advances have led a new generation of prolongevity advocates to foresee a time when aging might be genetically deterred or obliterated. According to science writer Albert Rosenfeld, "the science of genetic engineering would one day progress to the point where genes could be modified, transferred, or deleted so that a genetic 'clock of aging'. . .might thus be adjusted in any way we chose to define as beneficial" (p. xiii). Like Franklin or Condorcet two hundred years earlier, such advocates of prolongevity are sure that the findings of science will virtually restructure the life cycle. And, while they wait, advocates such as Rosenfeld continue to endorse dietary prescriptions that hark back to the dictates of Cornaro.

As in the past, however, this confidence has not been without its critics. Many question the desirability of increasing the proportion of society's aged population, or the benefits of extending the life of the extremely debilitated. Despite all the changes brought by science, and while life expectancy has risen, they argue that the maximum life span of the individual has not changed: it appears rather set at 110, or at most, 120. Yet, clearly the hope of extending the life span will not be deferred by such criticisms. From Cornaro through Rosenfeld, the prolongation of life continues to engage the popular imagination and challenge the limits of science.



BELL, J. On Regimen and Longevity. Philadelphia: Haswell & Johnson, 1842.

COLE, T. R. The Journey of Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

CORNARO, L. The Art of Living Long. (1558). New York: Arno Press, 1979.

GRUMAN, G. A. "A History of Ideas about the Prolongation of Life." In Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 56, no. 9 (1966): 3–102.

HABER, C. Beyond Sixty-Five. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

HAYES, J. R. How to Live Longer and Why We Do Not Live Longer. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1897.

HUFELAND, C. W. The Art of Prolonging Life (1797). Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1854.

JARVIS, E. Increase of Human Life. Boston: David Clapp and Sons, 1872.

LORAND, A. Old Age Deferred. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 1923.

MACKENSIE, J. The History of Health and the Art of Preserving It. (1760). New York: Arno Press, 1979.

METCHNIKOFF, E. The Prolongation of Life. (1908). New York: Arno Press, 1977.

MINOT, C. S. The Problem of Age, Growth, and Death. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908.

PINNEY, J. An Exposure of the Causes of the Present Deteriorated Condition of the Human Life. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1830.

ROSENFELD, A. Prolongevity II. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

SHYROCK, R. H. Medicine and Society in America 1660–1860. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1975.

SMITH, S. The Philosophy of Health. London: C. Cox, 1847.

STEPHENS, C. A. Natural Salvation. Norway Lake, Maine: The Laboratory, 1903.

SWEETSER, W. Human Life. (1867). New York: Arno Press, 1979.

TEMPLE, W. The Works of Sir William Temple. London: T. Woodward, 1750.

THOMS, W. Human Longevity. (1873). New York: Arno Press, 1979.

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