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A Few Words From Our Forefather

In a life filled with many accomplishments, Ben Franklin gained notoreity for, among other things, "discovering" electricity and helping to write the U.S. Constitution. But as if those things were not enough, he also took time out during his busy life to predict, Nostradamus-style, the future practice of cryonic suspension.

Sort of.

In the letter below, to his friend and fellow scientist Jacques Dubourg, he says several things that now seem almost eerily prescient. More than anything, his words convey a general optimism about science and its value, and a desire to be around in the far future to see how it all turns out. Today's cryonicists generally find more than a little to symapthize with in these thoughts.

Too bad that, as he feared, the science of his age was "too little advanced" to afford him the opportunity for more life. There is no doubt that having him around today would be a tremendous boon to historians and the curiousity-filled public. Of course, having Ben Franklin alive today would have beend an even bigger boon to Ben Franklin himself, historical figure or not.

"A hundred years hence," will people be saying the same thing about you? Ruminating your passing? Wondering how you would have liked the way the world turned out? Unlike poor Ben, you have at least one option for avoiding that. Will you?

* * *

London, April 1773.

To Jacques Dubourg.

Your observations on the causes of death, and the experiments which you propose for recalling to life those who appear to be killed by lightning, demonstrate equally your sagacity and your humanity. It appears that the doctrine of life and death in general is yet but little understood...

I wish it were possible... to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they might be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But... in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection...

I am, etc.

- B. FRANKLIN.

[From Mr. Franklin, A Selection from His Personal Letters, by L. W. Labaree and W. J. Bell, Jr. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956), pp. 27-29.]

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