One of the more obscure anniversaries celebrated internationally, 12th January is known as James Bedford Day by those in the cryonic community. It marks the anniversary of the first ever successful cryonic freezing fifty years ago.
A retired psychology professor and cryonics enthusiast, Dr. James Bedford passed away, or as cryonics specialists say; deanimated, on 12th January 1967. The decision to be frozen was Bedford’s own. A group known as the Life Extension Society had made an offer in 1965 to freeze someone free of charge as a test to see if the procedure was viable. Suffering from terminal kidney cancer, Bedford successfully applied for the project. He made clear to his immediate family his wishes to be frozen in the hope of eventual reanimation, and even set aside funds to pay for the procedure.
Immediately following Bedford’s death, the attending physician applied artificial respiration and heart massage to the patient to maintain the circulation of oxygenated blood. At the same time, steps were taken to gradually cool the body with ice.
Later, three experts from the Cryonics Society of California: Mr. Brunol, Mr. Prehoda and Mr. Nelson, injected the patient with DMSO, a chemical preservative solution. The body was then transferred to Cryo-Care Equipment Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona, where Dr. Bedford’s body was submerged in a cryocapsule, essentially a tank (sometimes called a dewar) which preserved him in a minus 106 degree centigrade bath of liquid nitrogen. Later, the doctor and his cryocapsule were transferred to a warehouse in Anaheim, California owned by Galiso Inc.
Since then Bedford’s cryonic slumber has remained eventful, going through several relocations. Bedford’s wife and son, Ruby and Norman, had to fight off a plethora of legal challenges from other family members who campaigned to have him thawed and given a more traditional burial. In July 1976, pressure from the insurers of the warehouse where Bedford was stored forced his son to hire a U-haul trailer and move his dad to Trans-Time Inc, a commercial cryonics facility in Emeryville, California. A year later he was moved once again, to a cheaper facility in Southern California.
In 1982, with the cost of storing Bedford escalating, Norman elected to transfer him back to a commercial facility. The doctor’s dewar was moved from a self-storage warehouse in Burbank to the Alcor-Cryovita Laboratories in Fullerton.
After twenty-two years, Bedford’s dewar started to suffer technical problems. Researchers were left with no choice but to transfer the deceased doctor to a new unit. Remarkably, during the transfer procedure the team observed that Bedford remained still frozen and in good condition. The process had worked.
Two years ago, the AlcorLife Extension Foundation controversially claimed that Bedford, born in 1893, was the longest surviving person on the planet. Technically it’s a grey area, legally Bedford is not alive, but neither is he officially dead. AlcorLife contend that as long as he remains in the state of cryopreservation, Bedford should be considered as surviving. Whether he can ever actually be revived however, which was the ultimate aim of his cryonic preservation, remains to be seen.