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A Note on Patents
by Michael LaTorra email@example.com
Member: Extropy Institute, http://www.extropy.org
Alcor Life Extension Foundation, http://www.alcor.org
Society for Technical Communication, http://www.stc.org
It is an oft repeated mantra of those enthused with alternative ideas of health care that there is something evil about the way pharmaceutical research is funded. However no one seems to have come up with a more efficient method of funding pharmaceutical research than the present one. By the use of patents, research is paid for by those who use the products in the first 20 years since they appear on the market. Here Michael LaTorra gives a succinct description of the process.
The key point about patents is that they are like copyrights, which expire after a certain number of years. In contrast to this time-limited form of ownership, we can own our cars, homes and other property for as long as we live, and then bequeath them to others in our wills. Not so with patents, which expire in fewer years than a typical modern person in an industrialized country is likely to live. (Copyrights, by the way, now last much longer: they extend for the life of the author plus 50 years.)
The granting of patents is intended to encourage private companies to invest money (often very large amounts) in the attempt to bring new technologies, medicines, and other goods to market. In the pharmaceutical industry, the process of developing, testing, and obtaining government approval for a new drug is well over $100 million US. Then the patented drug will be sold for a premium so that the company can earn back its money plus, we should all hope, sufficient profit that the company is willing and able to take the same risks on developing still newer and better drugs.
Eventually, however, the patent on that original drug will expire. Then any company with the means to do so can manufacture and sell that drug for a much lower price than was charged previously during the life of the patent.
Similarly, gene patents and their use in medicine and agriculture will be private for a number of years, and then they will enter the public domain, where any of us can use them without paying a fee.
Finally, I want to state my preference for having such developments in the hands of those "faceless corporations", as many people think of them, rather than putting them into the hands of equally faceless government bureaucrats whose record in the area of technological development leaves much to be desired. For links to the corporate home pages of a selection of these companies, please go to The shares page.
35th Update to Fly Longevity Experiments
by Doug Skrecky < firstname.lastname@example.org >
This is the 35th update on my fly longevity experiments. In view of the good longevity results obtained with Knudsen Elderberry Nectar back in Runs #31 & #32, I tried elderberry tea this run. However this Nectar consists of a mixture of apple, elderberry, boysenberry, plum and grape juices. The present results show that elderberry juice is unlikely to be the active ingredient in this Nectar.
No positive hits this time. Spearmint looks like it was mildly toxic. Cocoa was teamed with 300 mg chitosan to bind the remaining cocoa lipids. In other experiments fat sources have been found to reduce fly longevity. From the present results It looks like chitosan was mostly successful in preventing fat absorption.
Percent Survival on Day
|cocoa 1/4 tsp||97||97||87||77||77||77||77||77||70||63||48||20||7||0||-||-||-|
|lemon balm tea||82||76||76||73||73||73||67||67||52||52||52||24||18||6||3||0||-|
|lemon grass tea||80||72||72||68||72||72||68||64||56||52||32||16||12||8||4||0||-|
In Freezer Run #7, only mild and possibly spurious protection against freezing damage can be seen by coconut juice or green tea. In the next freezer run I'll try testing a large dose of green tea extract to see if this is beneficial.
Freezer Run #7
Percent Survival After minutes
My Appeal to Cryonicists
by Dr. Yuri Pichugin
(Dr. Pichugin is a cryobiologist and cryonics sympathizer in Kharkov, Ukraine)
Since 1970, when I was university freshman, I have been interested in the subject of death vs. immortality, not only as it relates to biology and medicine but also to philosophy, psychology and religion. Here I would like to share my thoughts with people who are interested in this topic as well. I have lived the main part of my life under the Soviet totalitarian system, which has left its imprint on my outlook. So perhaps I interpret some things differently than someone from a democratic country.
First, I would like briefly to offer some opinions for consideration by cryonicists, on strategic problems of cryonics and the immortalist movement. The main scientific problem is: can one prove and then show the feasibility of extending a human life by cryonic suspension, so that even our opponents could recognize the practicability of the idea? I think great scientific and financial resources will be needed for the solution of this problem. I am sure that recent achievements in science and engineering, along with economic progress, will provide a much greater resource base for solving the problem than has existed up to now.
Therefore a social problem arises: how can one inspire the greater interest of both individuals and society as a whole in cryonics and immortalism? Along with this therr are also ideological problems:
At the beginning of my anti-mortalist activity in 1975, I used the term "immortalism." Since 1977, however, I have substituted "anti-mortalism" in all my works, because I was forced to adapt to communist ideology. "Immortalism" literally signifies "negation (im-) of death (-mort)." So I was charged with idealism and religion because death exists! Usually "immortalist" refers to someone who believes in the immortality of a soul, i.e. an idealist and/or mystic. To Robert Ettinger, though, "immortalist" means a person striving for victory over death, so that his/her ideal and aim is immortality. I think it is more correct to use "anti-mortalism" for this latter concept since it signifies protest and struggle against death. In this way I have isolated myself from mysticism and idealism and fully come to agreement with science and technology.
Next, I would like to acquaint cryonicists with the main thoughts of my manuscript "Introduction into Anti-mortalism". The first article is "Is Cryonics a Way to God's Kingdom?". Here I make an appeal to cryonicists to "build God's Kingdom on earth." I use the pen name Foma Budimir or "Thomas Wakeworld." Thomas was the apostle in The Bible who doubted the resurrection of Jesus, as reported in John 20:25:
"So the other disciples told him [Thomas], 'We have seen the Lord!' Thomas said to them, 'Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.'"
Like the apostle, I very much doubt the existence of miracles unless I can personally verify them. I surely stand upon the firm ground of evidence which is given us by practical experience and science.
In Russia, Apostle Thomas was called "Thomas the unbeliever." I am also an unbeliever - I believe in no gods or supernatural forces, yet in the final analysis, I am not an atheist either. I took the name of the Apostle Thomas because I also favour God's Order and strive for It as he did. But at the same time I stand on the sound base of observations and facts rather than religious beliefs and anyone's fictions.
I like The Bible as a symbolic expression of God's Order, an ideal of eternal life. I shall often use biblical terminology because it simply and clearly expresses many goals, ideas, and concepts which are also used by modern immortalists and cryonicists. Otherwise there can be unnecessary confusion. (For example, when we speak of reaching "immortality" without qualifications, believers may not correctly understand. For them there is not only the positive form - immortality as eternal life in the Kingdom of God, but also the negative form - eternal punishment in hell. An "immortality" thus is a form of being or existence whose further properties must be made sufficiently clear.) In keeping with my ideology, I like the idea of a God and hope such a being exists. I do not see that God can be found by using modern scientific methods, but scientific practice and understanding are still limited. So a question about the existence of God remains finally open for me, and I do not flatly disclaim the existence of God, i.e. I am not an atheist. I have a basis in common with believers: the requirement of rescue from Satan's order in this world and of reaching eternal life in the harmonious order of God's world. We have the same needs and the same ideal but different ways of trying to realize this ideal.
I think modern cryonicists and immortalists are mistaken when they think it is only necessary to develop a method of reversible suspended animation (MRSA), and nearly everybody will flock to them and convert into superhumanity. Instead, paradoxically, it could happen that, with the development of reversible suspension of brain function, cryonics will be banned, much as strictures were placed on human cloning. Humanity is still not ready for either. Most people have quite a different psychology from that of cryonicists. Cryonicists believe, as communists have believed, in a "bright future of humanity" as it comes to its senses and radically changes for the better. But even if cryonics is not banned, it could turn out to be just a simple banality: only storage of frozen cadavers that nobody will revive in the future. MRSA is not by any means all that is needed; it is necessary but clearly not sufficient. It may amount to nothing if we do not awaken the spiritual consciousness of humanity. Great scientific and technical capabilities will be needed, and thus a strong social support, to gain mastery over the death-dealing forces of nature. In this way we may hope to win out over diseases, aging, and death itself, so that every human will have the possibility of free and unlimited self-improvement. But to realize this, the global task and millennial dreams of spiritual humans - or in short, an entirely new civilization - Godlike humanity is necessary.
Consciousness - of individuals, societies, and the whole of humanity - is still very imperfect. For this reason there is a catastrophic shortfall between what is now feasible, scientifically and technically, and the highest goals and ideals of the human race. So first of all it is necessary to create a sufficiently strong anti-mortalist ideology to back the cryonics movement. But an ideological movement consists not only of a doctrine but also followers of the doctrine. The doctrine may be created by a few, but the power of the movement will depend on the number and force of its supporters. Anti-mortalist doctrine will aim to realize the spiritual potential of humanity, i.e. to awaken people who are already predisposed to building God's Kingdom on Earth. Of such people, young people particularly are often enthralled by religion or other mystical ideologies. Better they go to cryonics societies than, for instance, Jehovah's Witnesses. Do you wonder why people are attracted to religious and mystical societies but not to cryonics groups? Why are Jehovah's Witnesses five million strong but supporters of cryonics about a thousand only? How much attention do the cryonics societies give to the forces and means for developing their own ideology?
It is a millennial dream of spiritual humans for the spirit to win out over the death-dealing forces of nature. Now at last we could start to realize this dream in the very best, literal sense, in working toward physical immortality. However, the spiritual humans either have not heard of the possibilities, or are intoxicated to befuddlement with religion. Anti-mortalist ideology should be so developed that it can displace religious ideology from the consciousness of people.
It is necessary in this to engage the spiritual potential of the whole humanity. If only small cryonics societies or groups are formed, "your house will be built on sand." You must build your edifice on a new civilization, one whose goal is God's Kingdom on Earth. This new order--Godlike humanity--must be the "foundation-stone" of the cryonics movement.
Again, I do not say that developing MRSA is not essential, but emphasize the need to pay attention to ideology as well. A comprehensive and deep teaching is necessary for searching out, enlightening, and integrating people who can serve as the starting-point of the new civilization.
Later I would like to share my apprehensions that the vast majority of the human race (up to 95-97%, in my view) are not able to understand and accept the ideal of anti-mortalism. The remaining 3-5% offer better prospects, but will need guidance. So it is necessary to find and integrate very rare, exceptional individuals who could awaken and knit together this 3-5%, to form the new civilization within the framework of democratic humanity.
Now, finally, I will focus on the grand point: why we are so certain it is necessary to strive for victory over death, for immortality. I am sure that more "normal" people consider us mad or, at the least, fantasisers. Are we right? Who is right? I will offer answers on these questions using
(1) scientific and
(2) biblical terminology.
A human is a self-conscious and self-organizing system. The most important activity or purpose of such a system is to strive for a never-ending preservation of its own consciousness and an infinite free self-development in a harmonious world (individual, society, nature). (Of course, it is necessary to read the chapter "What is a human?" from my manuscript "Introduction to Anti-mortalism" for a better understanding of this principle.)
Taken together, the never-ending self-preservation and infinite free self-development form the Highest Goal of any self-conscious system. The Highest Goal is the basis of all another goals. This goal is determined in itself, for itself, and by itself ("in-itself-for-itself" according to Hegel). If a person first of all does not aim at this goal, that person is not free but dependent on something. This something in effect determines him or her, and the person is only a means for the consummation of what, in the end, is not properly his or her goals at all. Any "spiritually awakened," self-conscious human first of all aims at and must aim at the Highest Goal, the striving to immortality as the human's most urgent activity, otherwise the human is out of his/her proper "element" and loses him- or herself!
If a self-conscious, self-organizing system is internally free enough, it has a perfectly suited self-programming. One does not say this of a human. An ordinary person is very far from a more perfect, superhuman or Godlike system, and has many self-defeating "programs" inside. For the human is programmed, not for reaching the Highest Goal but for using it as means for the consummation of other, lesser goals. So the human is made use of, but is not autotelic (or autosoteric), i.e. does not have itself as a goal in itself, for itself. So it loses itself. Humans are not rightly organized because they are heading toward their destruction. However a human-like system has a quality inside itself that potentially may bring it to Godlike perfection. This quality is its mind, consciousness, or self-consciousness!
Thus, if any system having self-consciousness does not aim at its true, Highest Goal (immortality in a harmonious, kindred world), this system is not free. Instead it is dependent on something which is a means to an end, while its proper goal is an end in itself. (In another article I'll consider the degrees of dependency and how one may overcome them.)
Here I only briefly review what The Bible and Christianity say on the subject of what a human being is and what is its proper activity. (To properly address the very important topic of anti-mortalism and religion, it is necessary to write quite a lot.)
A human was created in the "image and likeness" of God (Gen 1:26, 27). God is the most perfect, immortal person, and before the Fall people too could become Godlike. A human was fit for eternal life in Eden and was able to contain infinity and perpetuity. After the Fall, people lost the possibility of eternal life on Earth (Gen 3:19). Now as well as thousands years ago everybody is faced with a choice: to side with God and choose good and eternal life, or side with Satan and choose evil and death.
"Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death". "...between God's blessing and God's curse ... . Choose life." (Deut 30:15, 19).
Both God's and Satan's nature were known to people after the Fall. But The Bible and Christianity assert that a person can choose between the two, and thus must bear responsibility for good or bad conduct. God formulated the highest, true activity of every human so:
"Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things" (Mt 6:33).
The striving for salvation, for eternal life in God's Kingdom must be the Highest Goal for everybody. This Highest Goal results from the greatest commandment of God, to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," and the second that is like it, "Love your neighbour as you love yourself" (Mat 22:36, 37). In our time God provides many things (maybe, everything) for us to build God's Kingdom on Earth. We do not intend to build the tower of Babel and to play the role of God in this. It is Satan who played and plays the role of God to humans by way of deceiving them. We do not intend to play such a role but strive to become infinite and eternal particles in the infinite and eternal world of God! Whoever does not strive to become a Godlike being in this world does not deserve God's Kingdom because Christ said:
"You must be perfect--just as your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:48).
Unfortunately, we had to appear in this world which is ruled by Satan or the Devil (Jn 12:31). However, having the Holy Spirit inside ourselves, we must be fully aware of that and overcome a sin (Gen 4:17). We should unite in work with God and really create the Good--by struggling against diseases, aging, and death itself, to build God's Kingdom on Earth.
"So then, those who do not do the good they know they should do are guilty of sin" (Jas 4:17).
Jesus commanded his apostles, "Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons" (Mt 10:8). We cannot now accomplish those things by supernatural means, but we have a possibility of doing them by scientific methods and, above all, here and now we might save people, including ourselves, using cryonic suspension. Every conscious, aware, awakened human as being potentially like God must strive to set God's Order on the Earth, to build God's Kingdom, an attribute of which will be immortality. [Also see Dr Thomas Donaldson's Jesus Was An Immortalist in Longevity Report 34. -ed]
Thus The Bible and Christianity also assert that every human must strive to save, to have eternal life in God's Kingdom. We have the same goal and ideal but strive to reach this through real (not supernatural), scientific paths.
I shall continue to develop the subject of the ideological problem (why don't most people try to save themselves using cryonic suspension?) in my next articles, "Psychological and Ideological Bases of Antimortalism," "Ideology and Reality," and "Persons and Society."
Leonid A. Gavrilov*, Natalia S. Gavrilova*, (
Center on Aging, NORC/University of Chicago, 1155 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637)
Galina N. Evdokushkina**, Victoria G. Semyonova**
Central Research Institute of Public Health and Informatics, Moscow, Russia.
Paper accepted for presentation at
The Population Association of America 2001 Annual Meeting
Session 121 "Dynamics of Health Over the Life Course").
March 28-31, 2001
Copyright - Leonid A. Gavrilov
Address for correspondence:
Dr. Leonid A. Gavrilov, Center on Aging
NORC/University of Chicago
1155 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
Fax: (773) 256-6313; Phone: (773) 256-6359
The idea of fetal origins of adult degenerative diseases and early-life programming of late-life health and survival is being actively discussed in the scientific literature. Can this new fascinating concept also be useful to understand (at least partially) the observed sex disparities in adult health and longevity? Are the long-lasting effects of early-life conditions identical for both sexes, or, on the contrary, they are sex-specific? These questions stimulated us to conduct the present pilot exploratory study on the gender specificity of late-life health outcomes for early-life effects. In this study we addressed these scientific problems by studying the effects of early-life conditions on adult lifespan of men and women separately, using the methodology of historical prospective study of extinct birth cohorts.
In this study we found that sex differences in adult life span are modulated by early-life events and conditions. Specifically, we found that such variables as
have a profound effects on adult lifespan (life expectancy at age 30) in females, but not in males. Daughters born to particularly young fathers (below 25 years) or old fathers (above 45 years) live significantly shorter lives, while sons are less affected by paternal age at conception. The dependence of progeny lifespan on maternal lifespan is non-linear with particularly steep slope for long-lived mothers (above 90 years) and female sex of the progeny. Women born in May or December live longer compared to those born in February or August, while male lifespan is less affected by the season of birth. The results of this pilot exploratory study justifies the need for further full-scale research project on gender-specific outcomes of early-life effects and conditions.
The idea of fetal origins of adult degenerative diseases and early-life programming of late-life health and survival is being actively discussed in the scientific literature (Lucas, 1991; Barker, 1992; 1998; Kuh & Ben-Shlomo, 1997; Leon et al., 1998; Lucas et al., 1999; Blackwell et al., 2001). Can this new fascinating concept also be useful to understand (at least partially) the observed sex disparities in adult health and longevity? Are the long-lasting effects of early-life conditions identical for both sexes, or, on the contrary, they are sex-specific? These questions stimulated us to conduct the present pilot exploratory study on the gender specificity of late-life health outcomes for early-life effects.
The study of sex differences in late-life responses has also important methodological implications for research work on early-life effects. This is because in many cases the available datasets are limited in their size and/or the studied outcomes are rare events, thus creating a temptation to pool data for both sexes together in order to increase the statistical power (Blackwell et al., 2001). It is important, therefore, to find out whether gender differences in response to early-life events are indeed similar (so that the data could be pooled together with simple adjustment for sex just by one indicator variable), or they are fundamentally and qualitatively different (so that each sex should be studied separately).
In this study we addressed these two scientific problems (fundamental and methodological) by studying the effects of early-life conditions on adult lifespan of men and women separately, using the methodology of historical prospective study of extinct birth cohorts. We discovered the profound sex differences in late-life responses to early-life effects in our pilot exploratory study that justifies the need for further full-scale research project on related topic.
Data and Methods
Main Data Source.
In this study we collected, computerized and analyzed the detailed genealogical records on lifespan of about 12,000 adult persons (survived by age 30) and their parents, using particularly reliable and complete data on European royal and noble families for extinct birth cohorts (born 1800-1880). The main advantage of these data is their high accuracy, reliability and completeness (to be discussed later). Another advantage of this kind of data is the relative homogeneity of this Caucasian population regarding social class and educational background. Since this privileged social group lived in favorable conditions for many centuries, one could expect less influence of adverse social factors (poverty, for example) on life span and hence lower bias caused by these factors. This kind of data allows us to minimize the social heterogeneity of the population under study. Thus, although the sample analyzed in this study does not represent the whole human population (as laboratory animals do not represent species in the wild), it is one of the best possible samples to test biodemographic hypotheses since the effects of population heterogeneity are minimized with regard to social status.
The database on European royal and noble families (a family-linked database) was developed and already used in our previous studies (Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 1997a; b; 1999; 2000a; 2001a; Gavrilov et al., 1997; Gavrilova et al., 1998). To develop this database, we have used one of the best professional sources of genealogical data available - the famous German edition of the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels (Genealogical Yearbook of Nobility). This edition is known world wide as the Gotha Almanac - "Old Gotha" published in Gotha in 1763-1944, and "New Gotha" published in Marburg since 1951 (see Gavrilova, Gavrilov, 1999, for more details). Data from the Gotha Almanach were often used in early biodemographic studies of fertility (see Hollingsworth, 1969, pp. 199-224, for references) and are used now in the studies of human longevity (Gavrilova et al., 1998; Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 1997a; 2001a).
Each volume of the New Gotha Almanach contains about 2,000 genealogical records dating back to the 14-16th centuries (to the founder of a particular noble genus). More than 100 volumes of this edition are already published, so more than 200,000 genealogical records with well-documented genealogical data are available from this data source. The high quality of information published in this edition is ensured by the fact that the primary information is drawn from the German Noble Archive (Deutsches Adelsarchiv). The Director of the German Noble Archive (Archivdirektor) is also the Editor of the New Gotha Almanach. Our own experience based on cross-checking the data, has demonstrated that the number of mistakes (mostly misprints) is very low in the New Gotha Almanac (less than 1 per 1000 records), so this source of data is very accurate compared to other published genealogies.
The information on noble families in the New Gotha Almanac is recorded in a regular manner. The description of each particular noble genus starts with information on 2-3 generations of founders of male sex only. Then three to four the most recent generations are described in more detail, including information on individuals (e.g., first and last names; event data: birth, death, marriage dates and places; descriptive data: noble degrees, occupation if available, information on death circumstances if available), information on parents (e.g., first and last names; event data: birth and death dates and places), information on spouse(s) (e.g., first and last names; birth and death dates and places; first and last names of parents) and information on children (detailed as for each individual).
The process of data computerization was started from the most recent volumes of the New Gotha Almanac (published in 1990-1994) and reached now the volumes published ten years earlier. The database on European aristocratic families comprises more than 20,000 personal records and is growing further.
Supplementary Data Sources.
Some other supplementary sources of data were used in the development of database. These data sources included two computerized data files on European royalty and British peerage (computerized database "Royal92" distributed on the Internet by Brian C. Tompsett at University of Hull, UK, and database on British Peerage distributed on CD by S&N Genealogy Supplies), as well as over 100 genealogical publications on Russian nobility listed elsewhere (Gavrilov et al., 1996). These data were used as a supplement to the main data source since their quality was not as high compared to the Gotha Almanac. Although data on European royalty were recorded in computerized data sources ("Royal92", British Peerage CD, see above) with sufficient completeness, data on lower rank nobility (landed gentry) were less complete and accurate. The same was true for the data on Russian nobility. All supplementary data were matched with the Gotha Almanac data, in order to cross-check the overlapping pieces of information. This cross-checking procedure allowed us to increase the completeness of the database by complementation of information taken from different sources.
The Structure of the Database on European Aristocracy.
The database approach used in this study is similar to the approach used for existing family-linked databases, such as the Utah Population Database (Skolnick et al., 1979), Laredo Epidemiological Project (Buchanan et al., 1984) or other historical databases (Gutmann et al., 1989). Initially the information computerized from each volume of the New Gotha Almanac is stored in two files: the Individual File and the Marriage File. Then these two files are merged into one rectangular file with information on up to 4 spouses. Since marriages with 5th and higher orders comprise less than 0.1% of all marriages, the potential loss of information on spouses after data merge is negligible. Then these merged files are linked to the Master File (main database).
In the Master File each record is related to the duration of an individual's life. Each record represents an individual's event data (birth and death dates and places) and individual's descriptive information (identification number, sex, first and last names, nobility rank, occupation, birth order, cause of death (violent/nonviolent), ethnicity, marital status, data source code number, data source year of publication). Individual information is supplemented by data for parents (identification numbers, first and last names, birth, death and marriage dates, cause of death) and spouses. Thus, the database that is used in this project is organized in the form of triplets (referred to as the "ego" and two parents). This structure of records is widely used in human genetics and is adequate for studies of parent-child relationships. Similar database structure was used in the recent study of kinship networks (Post et al., 1997).
Data Quality Control.
Data quality control was an important part of our study designed to develop high quality family-linked databases for longevity studies.
The genealogical data sets were checked for:
In our study we referred to the well-known publication by Thomas Hollingsworth (1962) on British peerage as a standard for European aristocracy, to check for data representativeness.
The completeness in birth and death dates reporting in the New Gotha Almanac was very high: dates of all vital events were reported for nearly 95% of all persons. Such high completeness is not common for many other genealogical data sources. For example, for British Peerage data published in Burke almanac in most cases there are no birth dates for women, which makes the calculation of their life span impossible. In fact, this problem with British aristocratic women was first noticed by Karl Pearson a century ago (Beeton and Pearson, 1899, 1901). He used the British Peerage data to study the longevity inheritance and had to exclude women from his consideration for the following reason: "The limitation to the male line was enforced upon us partly by the practice of tracing pedigrees only through the male line, partly by the habitual reticence as to the age of women, even at death, observed by the compilers of peerages and family histories" (Beeton and Pearson, 1901, pp.50-51).
The accuracy of data published in the New Gotha Almanac is also very high: the frequency of inconsistent records is less than 1 per 1000 records while for many other genealogical data sources it falls within 1 per 300-400 records. Comparison of our data with Hollingsworth's analysis of British peerage (Hollingsworth, 1962) revealed good agreement between his findings and our data on mortality patterns, including male/female gap in life expectancy.
The genealogies for the members of European aristocratic families presented in the Gotha Almanac are of descending type, tracing almost all the descendants of relatively few founders. This is an important advantage of this data source over other genealogies that are often of ascending type (pedigrees). It is known in historical demography that the ascending genealogies are biased, over-representing more fertile and longer-lived persons who succeed to become ancestors, and for this reason such genealogies should be treated with particular caution (Jetté and Charbonneau, 1984; Fogel, 1993).
Thus, the genealogical data published in the Gotha Almanac are characterized by high quality and accuracy. We have, however, encountered some problems regarding the data completeness that are discussed below, along with proposed solutions.
Censored, truncated observations and missing death dates.
Our study revealed that the percentage of cases with unreported death dates is rather small in our main data sources (Gotha Almanac), and is caused mainly by right censoring of long-lived persons who were still alive by the date of data collection and publication. The percentage of non-reported death dates varies from 0 to 7% in extinct birth cohorts (1800-1880), while it is higher in later birth cohorts (1880-1899) - 23% for women and 8% for men, since some individuals were still alive by the date of data collection and volume publication. Note that women, who live longer, have a higher proportion of right-censored observations. The high proportion of censored observations in genealogies is not desirable, since the exact dates of censoring are often unknown. This uncertainty creates problems for data analysis, so the researchers working with genealogies prefer to use non-censored, extinct birth cohorts in their studies (Mayer, 1991; Pope, 1992; Kasakoff and Adams, 1995). We also used extinct (non-censored) birth cohorts in our study. For this purpose only those birth cohorts were used in the study that were born at least 100 years before the year of data publication (to be sure that the birth cohort under study is almost extinct).
Under reporting of women and children.
In many genealogical books and databases non-married women as well as children died in infancy are often missed or reported with less completeness. Since genealogical records are focused on family names which are transmitted by males only, women could be lost in genealogies when they marry and change their family names (Hollingsworth, 1976). Also, in many cases data for women do not contain information on their birth and death dates resulting in biased sex ratio in the sample with complete dates. We have also encountered this problem in our studies although for somewhat different reason. Our analysis revealed that the main cause of the sex bias in the New Gotha Almanac is related to the manner of data representation: more recent generations are presented completely, while the earlier generations are limited mainly to the male ancestors (in order to avoid repetitive publication of individuals already presented in previous volumes). That is why, the sex ratio among early birth cohorts (1800-1860) is biased in favor of males while for more recent birth cohorts (1880-1899) it is within normal range. Since in our previous studies the most recent volumes of the New Gotha Almanac (published after 1980) were computerized and analyzed (in order to avoid censoring), the proportion of males in the database was substantially higher than expected (Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 1997a; b; 1999; 2000a; 2001a; Gavrilov et al., 1997; Gavrilova et al., 1998). Sex bias is an important issue, particularly when gender differences are studied (as it is done in the present study). Therefore, every effort is made to ensure that the dataset used in this particular study is sex-balanced (see Table 1).
Table 1. Characteristics of the dataset
|Birth cohort (year of birth)||Mean Age at Death*|
± Standard Error (years)
||66.2 ± 0.8
|64.2 ± 0.7|
||66.1 ± 0.8
|62.9 ± 0.7|
||66.1 ± 0.7
|63.4 ± 0.7|
||67.7 ± 0.7
|62.7 ± 0.6|
|1840-1849||69.8 ± 0.6
|63.7 ± 0.5|
|1850-1859||71.7 ± 0.6
|63.8 ± 0.5|
|1860-1869||74.4 ± 0.4
|66.1 ± 0.4|
|1870-1879||76.4 ± 0.4
|65.7 ± 0.4|
* Data refer to adult lifespan for those who survived by age 30.
To our knowledge, this is the first study of the family history datasets for European aristocratic families, where the sex bias is at last eliminated.
The under reporting of children died in infancy may be also a serious problem, especially for studies that include fertility analysis. Fortunately, in the Gotha Almanac the noble families are described with remarkable completeness, especially those families which belong to the higher nobility rank (kings, princes, earls). In particular, all ever born children are recorded, including those who died the same day. Another indicator of data completeness is the normal sex ratio at birth (101 to 108) observed among these families (according to our sample analysis). In our database over 90 aristocratic genuses belonging to the upper nobility were recorded completely, although data for lower rank nobility were not yet completed. Under reporting of children is not a problem for this particular study that is focused on adult life span for those who survive by age 30 years.
Since the data used in this study are characterized by remarkable accuracy and completeness, it was possible to apply simple and straightforward methods of data analysis without making heavy assumptions. In particular, since the length of life is known for every person (there were no right censored observations) it was possible to analyze the duration of life directly as a dependent, outcome variable in linear regression model. There was no need to apply the Cox proportional hazard model and to make a strong assumption about multiplicative effects of covariates on hazard rate. Instead, the persons' lifespan is studied directly as a dependent outcome variable and a function of other explanatory and potentially confounding predictor variables (see later).
In this study we applied a multiple regression analysis with nominal variables which is a very flexible tool to control for effects of both quantitative and qualitative (categorized) variables. This method also allows one to accommodate for complex non-linear and non-monotonic effects of predictor variables. We used the data for extinct birth cohorts (born in 1800-1879) free of censored observations and tested a long list of explanatory and potentially confounding variables (described below) to consider all possible artifacts.
Life span of adult (30+) progeny (sons and daughters separately) was considered as a dependent outcome variable in multi-variate regression with dummy (0-1) variables using the SAS statistical package (procedure REG). The independent predictor variables included 12 types of binary variables:
(1) calendar year of birth (to control for historical increase in life expectancy as well as for complex secular fluctuations in lifespan). The whole birth year period of 1800-1879 was split into 5-year intervals (16 intervals) presented by 15 binary (0-1) variables with reference level set at 1875-1879 birth years.
(2) maternal lifespan (to study maternal lifespan effects through combined genetic effects and shared environment). The maternal lifespan data were grouped into 5-year intervals (15 intervals) with the exception of the first (15-29 years) and the last (95+ years) longer intervals with small number of observations. The data were coded with 14 dummy variables with reference level set at 75-80 years for maternal lifespan.
(3) paternal lifespan (to study paternal lifespan effects through combined genetic effects and shared environment). The data were grouped and coded in a way similar to maternal lifespan (see above).
(4) maternal age when a person (proband) was born. This variable is used to study possible confounding effects of maternal age on offspring lifespan. The data for mother's age were grouped in 5-year intervals (7 intervals to cover the age range of 15-60 years) with the exception of the last longer interval of 45-59 years with small number of observations. Maternal age of 25-29 years is selected as a reference.
(5) father's age when a person was born. This variable is used to study paternal age effects on offspring lifespan. The data were grouped and coded in 5-year intervals (9 intervals to cover the age range of 15-80 years) with the exception of the first (15-24 years) and the last (60-79 years) longer intervals with small number of observations. Paternal age of 40-44 years is selected as a reference.
(6) birth order. This variable is represented by binary variable coded as 1 when individual was a first-born child and coded as zero otherwise.
(7) nationality. The nationality of individual is represented by a set of 6 categories - Germans, British, Italians, Poles, Russians and 'others'. Germans (the largest group in our sample) is selected as a reference group.
(8) cause of death ('extrinsic' versus 'natural'). The death is coded as extrinsic or premature in following cases: (1) violent cause of death (war losses, accidents, etc.), (2) death in prison and other unfavorable conditions (concentration camp, etc.), (3) death from acute infections (cholera, etc.) and (4) maternal death (for women only). Deaths from all other causes combined were considered as a reference outcome.
(9) loss of the father in the formative years of life (before age 15). This is a binary variable coded as 1 when father was lost before the age 15 and coded as zero otherwise.
(10) loss of the mother before age 15. This binary variable is coded as 1 in those cases when mother was lost before the age 15 and coded as zero otherwise.
(11) loss of both parents (orphanhood) before age 15. This binary variable is coded as 1 in those cases when both parents were lost before the age 15 and coded as zero otherwise.
(12) month of birth. This variable was included into analysis, because previous studies indicated that month of birth may be an important predictor of adult lifespan (Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 1999; Doblhammer, 1999), particularly for daughters (Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 1999). This variable was represented as a set of 11 dummy variables with those born in February considered as a reference group. The main focus of this particular study is on sex-differences in the month-of-birth effects that were not studied before.
Results and Discussion
The characteristics of analyzed dataset are presented at Table 1. There are several notable features to mention here. First, the numbers of males and females are rather similar in all studied birth cohorts (no apparent sex bias). Second, the values for mean lifespan are rather high - more than 62 years for males and 66 years for females. It indicates that lifespan in this socially elite population is comparable with modern lifespan values observed now in some countries of the world. Thus, observations made on these historical data may be applicable, with some caution, to contemporary populations. Third, there is a significant increase in lifespan during the studied historical period, particularly for women (over 10 years gain). Therefore, the data should be adjusted for secular trends in lifespan (which has been done in this study). Finally, the temporal changes in lifespan are clearly not linear, and sometimes even not monotonic which justifies the method of analysis used in this study (multiple regression with nominal variables and treating the year of birth as categorized predictor variable). (Table 1appears earlier.)
Table 2 presents striking data that the month of birth is an important predictor for the life expectancy of adult women (30 years and above). In particular, women born in May and December tend to live 2-3 years longer on average compared to those born in February (significant at p < 0.01). The effects of the months of birth are expressed in Table 2 as a difference from the reference level in February and are point estimates of the differential intercept coefficients adjusted for other variables.
The month of birth remains an important predictor for women's lifespan, even after adjustment for the effects of all other explanatory variables mentioned earlier in the "Data and Methods" section.
The fact that such an early circumstance of human life as month of birth may have a significant effect 30 years later on the chances of human survival is quite remarkable. It indicates that there may be critical periods early in human life particularly sensitive to seasonal variation in living conditions in the past (e.g., vitamin supply, etc.). It is known that the deficiency of vitamins B12, folic acid, B6, niacin, C, or E, appears to mimic radiation in damaging DNA by causing single- and double-strand breaks, oxidative lesions, or both, and may contribute to premature aging (Ames, 1998). The seasonal lack of these vitamins in late winter/early spring, in coincidence with one of the two critical periods in fetus or child development (the second month of pregnancy and the first months after birth), may explain a dramatic life span shortening among those born in August and February. Our finding is also consistent with the reliability theory of aging which emphasizes the importance of the initial level of damage that determines the future length of human life (Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 1991; 2001b).
Table 2. Female lifespan as a function of month-of-birth
|Month-of-birth||Net effect||Standard Error||P value|
These general explanations, however, do not match with data for males presented in Table 3. In contrast to females, the male lifespan does NOT depend on month of birth, at least in this particular dataset. This observation is the first example in our study when gender differences in response to early-life conditions are observed.
Table 3. Male lifespan as a function of month-of-birth
|Month-of-birth||Net effect||Standard Error||P value|
The dependence of female lifespan on paternal age at reproduction (when daughter was born) is presented in Table 4. Note that there is an optimal age to father a daughter, which is rather late - about 40-44 years (considered as a reference level in this study). Daughters born to older or younger fathers tend to live about 2 years shorter lives on average (significant, see Table 4).
Table 4. Female lifespan as a function of paternal age at reproduction
|Paternal Age||Net effect
|Standard Error||P value|
Shorter lifespan of daughters conceived to older fathers is usually explained by age-related accumulation of mutations in DNA of paternal germ cells (Crow, 1997; Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 2000a; 2001a). It is more difficult to explain, why daughters born to particularly young fathers also live shorter lives. Standard social explanation, that low-income males without education start reproducing earlier seems not to be easily applicable to this socially elite group of royal and noble families.
Analysis of the scientific literature suggests that there may be a fundamental biological explanation of the "young father - short daughters' lifespan" paradox. It was found that the risk of congenital heart defects (ventricular septal defects, VSD, and atrial septal defects, ASD) is increased not only among the offspring of the older fathers, but also among the offspring of particularly young fathers - below 20 years (Olshan et al., 1994). Children born to younger fathers (under 20 years) have increased risk of neural tube defects, hypospadias, cystic kidney, and Down syndrome (McIntosh et al., 1995).
In laboratory mouse, offspring born from older mature fathers exhibit better behavioural performances (for spontaneous activity in both sex and learning capacity in males) than those born from particularly young post-pubescent fathers (Auroux et al., 1998). Similar results were obtained for humans in the study that involved the distribution of scores obtained in psychometric tests by 18-year-old male subjects, according to their father's age at the time of their birth. The curve of such scores produced an inverted U-shape, with poor scores for those conceived to particularly young or old fathers. Maternal age did not appear to play a part in this event. These results pose the problem of identifying genetic and/or biosocial factors associated with young fathers, which might have an impact on the quality of the conceptus (Auroux et al., 1989).
The practical importance of these findings is obvious: the age constrains for the donors of sperm cells in the case of IVF (in vitro fertilization) should be probably revised to exclude not only the old donors, but also those donors who are too young (below 25 years).
Again, all these interesting ideas fail when data on males are analyzed (see Table 5). In contrast to females, the male lifespan does NOT depend on paternal age at person's birth, at least in this particular dataset. This observation is the SECOND example in our study when gender differences in response to early-life conditions are observed.
Table 5. Male lifespan as a function of paternal age at reproduction
|Paternal Age||Net effect
|Standard Error||P value|
Note: Data for Tables 4 and 5 are calculated for subset where the progeny of long-lived fathers (80+ years) was excluded from the analysis for the reasons described elsewhere (Gavrilov, Gavrilova, 2000a).
The third example of sex differences in response to early-life conditions refers to effects of birth order on adult lifespan (Table 6). Specifically, the first-born daughters tend to live 1.6 years longer compared to later-born daughters (statistically significant at p<0.005, see Table 6), while sons again demonstrate no response at all. This is kind of strange, because the first-born sons are most likely to inherit parental property in the studied aristocratic families and, therefore, should benefit most from their first-born status. From this perspective, the results are completely opposite to expectations based on socio-economic explanations. As for possible biological explanations, it is interesting to note the results of 17-year demographic study of 315 yellow baboons at Mikumi National Park, Tansania (Wasser, Norton, 1993). This study found that female, but not male, infant survival was inversely correlated with birth order, that matches to some extent with our findings on aristocratic families.
Table 6. Effect of the birth order (first-born status) on adult lifespan of males and females
|Sex||Net effect of first-born
|Standard Error||P value|
The last, forth example of gender-specific effects refers to familial transmission of longevity from mother to child (Tables 7 and 8). Here again, daughters proved to be highly responsive while sons demonstrate virtually no response. Specifically, daughters born to long-lived mothers (95+) tend to live 8 years longer on average compared to daughters born to 'normal' mothers (lived 75-79 years, reference level). In contrast to daughters, son's response to maternal longevity is negligible (Table 8).
Table 7. Female lifespan as a function of maternal lifespan
|Maternal Lifespan||Net effect
|Standard Error||P value|
Table 8. Male lifespan as a function of maternal lifespan
|Maternal Lifespan||Net effect
|Standard Error||P value|
Of course, all these findings should be interpreted with great caution and need to be replicated on other datasets. However, the results of this pilot exploratory study clearly indicate the need for separate analysis of data for males and females when late-life consequences of early-life conditions and events are explored. There is a definite need for subsequent full-scale studies of gender-specific outcomes of early-life events and conditions and our pilot study presented here justifies the need of further work in this direction.
This pilot exploratory study was supported in part by NIA grants.
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Religion is Not the Enemy of Immortalism and Cryonics
by Robert Ettinger < Ettinger@aol.com >
On an email list, someone again raised the notion that religion is the enemy of immortalism and cryonics. This is a mistake.
First of all, the Cryonics Institute has a substantial minority of religious people, Christians and Jews, and so do the other organizations. We don't know exactly how many, because we don't ask them, but one can make a rough guess from conversations and correspondence. That is fact, not theory.
Another fact is that clergymen, Christians and Jews, who have written about cryonics, or have been asked directly, have mostly tended to be neutral, sometimes even favourable. On one occasion a Roman Catholic priest, with the approval of his bishop, consecrated a cryostat. Another priest helped us persuade hospital personnel to cooperate with a case. A Lutheran theologian, asked by someone who was thinking about joining, said he saw no problem as long as the intent was not to defy God but just to extend and improve life.
Further, it is a mistake to think that the main pull of religion is the promise of eternal life in the hereafter. Not all religions promise that. Some religions don't even have a deity. "Religion" is basically mostly a mixture of fellowship and dedication, with yearnings for exaltation or transcendence. Communism was a religion to many people.
It is another mistake to worry about science vs. religion. Religion (in the main stream) has always adapted and come to terms with science, and will continue to do so.
Perceiving religion as enemy of immortalism, or of cryonics, is neither necessary nor fruitful. Some people are
always tempted to bash what they see as the logical failings of various religions; this temptation should be
resisted, at least in the context of cryonics and immortalism.
As Others See us
by Gerald England.
New Hope International Review - http ://www.nhi.clara.net/online.htm
NHI Review, 20 Werneth Avenue, Gee Cross, Hyde, Cheshire SK14 5NL
Longevity Report #81
As often this issue reproduces our review of the previous issue. In response to the editor's comment I have to say thanks for pointing out a spelling mistake. It has been corrected, as has a typo I've just spotted in an earlier review.
As general editor it is always difficult trying to find suitable people to review specialist magazines like this one. Many would dismiss it out of hand and in fact criticise me for even considering publishing a review. Whilst I never knowingly send a magazine where I know it will it get an unsympathetic reading, editors and publishers do well to consider how their work is viewed by those less knowledgeable about their cause, and how they "come across".
David Pascal's opening piece in this issue indicates that even among cryonic researchers there are not only differences of opinion but also rivalry, vested interests at play and a tendency among some sections to seek secrecy.
George Smith contributes a piece attacking the views of those who campaign against the polluting aspects of technology. Citing the destructive forces of nature, he suggests that only technology can solve eco-problems.
A complete contrast is the piece by Robert Ettinger who provides some thoughts on philosophy and the meaning of the term "self" and posing a number of important questions that are almost impossible to answer.
Interesting observations are made by Charles Platt in a short piece on population issues and several writers affirm their belief in cryonics. Whilst they are aware that they can't be certain of the future they know that if they don't sign up, they may be dead right or dead wrong but certainly they will be dead.
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