Cryonics: Quest for eternal life

Please wait for video to download - approx 4MB, 10 minutes. In the meantime, scroll down and read.

from an article on the website of the BBC

Cryonics: a route to eternal life, or a waste of money?

Edward Stourton asks why people are prepared to pay huge sums of money to have their bodies frozen in the hopes that one day science will bring them back from the dead. When you step into Barry Albin-Dyer's funeral home in Rotherhithe you step back into history - the horse drawn hearses and the top hats evoke the Victorian way of death, when they did these things in style.

His family have been in the business for 200 years, and he is something of a philosopher in matters of mortality.

Barry Albin-Dyer, seen right : "If you come to one of my chapels here to view someone you've lost", he says, "you are looking at your certain future.

"When you look in that coffin, that's your certain future. How hard is that for us as human beings to deal with?"

Traditional the business may be, but that does not stop Mr Albin-Dyer catering for those who want to believe that a coffin is NOT their certain future; for the last 12 years, he has been the European agent for the Cryonics Institute of Detroit.


Cryonicists put their trust in what they call an "ambulance to the future" They want to be embalmed and frozen in liquid nitrogen as soon as they are dead.

They hope that science will one day find a way to revive and rejuvenate them.

It is easy to sympathise with the all-too human emotions that drive them. Barry Albin-Dyer cites the case of a young man who is terminally ill and without religious faith: "Although he knows there is only this much chance that it will ever work, his is prepared to have the one little chance that may be left to him".

Paul and Maureen Michaels, who live on the Isle of Man, have also booked themselves in for the appropriate treatment at Mr Albin-Dyer's hands when they die.

"We're talking," says Paul, "of something that science may be able to do in the future". "I enjoy living", adds his wife simply, "I enjoy being alive and I'd like to continue".

The Cryonics Institute

A place in the ambulance to the future does not come cheaply; the Michaels have shelled out $28,000 to the Cryonics Institute and will pay a further $5,000 for the appropriate embalming and associated preparations for long term storage.

To find out what that kind of money buys, we travelled with Barry Albin-Dyer to the Cryonics Institute in the United States. The bleak, snow-covered landscape of a Detroit suburb did not help, but the Institute is a chilling place in more ways than one.

There are nearly 40 bodies stored in huge white containers - cryostats, as they are technically called. Andy Zowacki, the plant manager, lives with his charges 24 hours a day, and fills up their liquid nitrogen when necessary.

He calls the bodies "patients". Will they ever be revived to enjoy a new life?

Barry Albin-Dyer, a Catholic, doesn't think so. "I think if they come back in the future, it will be on the day of the resurrection", he says.

Ambulance to the Future was broadcast at 19.20 GMT on Sunday 15th April, on BBC 2. This was Easter Sunday - the day when one of the largest groups on the planet are celebrating the idea of the resurrection of the individual.

Cryonics Europe Webmaster's Comment

With regards to Mr Albin's remark, I would recommend readers look back to the contents list and find the articles on cryonics and religion. Two of the articles suggest that The Bible requires people to help God help them, not just to lay back and let God do it all. If this is the case, then the ideas of N.F. Fyodorov carry some merit, as does the idea of cryopreservation. Life is a gift, and what is a better way of showing gratitude for a gift than to cherish it.