Don't Grow Old
The Elixir of Life and Rejuvenation
|Don't Grow Old
The Elixir of Life and Rejuvenation
Rejuvenation is distinct from life extension. Life extension strategies often study the causes of aging and try to oppose those causes in order to slow aging.
The elixir of life, also known as the elixir of immortality and sometimes equated with the philosopher's stone, is a legendary potion, or drink, that grants the drinker eternal life or eternal youth.
Many practitioners of alchemy pursued it. The elixir of life was also said to be able to create life. It is related to the myths of Enoch, Thoth, and Hermes Trismegistus, all of whom in various tales are said to have drunk "the white drops" (liquid gold) and thus achieved immortality.
Rejuvenation is the reversal of aging and thus requires a different strategy, namely repair of the damage that is associated with aging or replacement of damaged tissue with new tissue.
Rejuvenation can be a means of life extension, but most life extension strategies do not involve rejuvenation.
Various myths tell the stories about the quest for rejuvenation.
It was believed that magic or intervention of a supernatural power can bring back the youth and many mythical adventurers set out on a journey to do that, for themselves, their relatives or some authority that sent them.
An ancient Chinese emperor actually sent out ships of young men and women to find a pearl that would rejuvenate him. This led to a myth among modern Chinese that Japan was founded by these people.
In some religions, people were to be rejuvenated after death prior to placing them in heaven.
The stories continued well into the 16th century. A famous Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León led the expedition around the Caribbean islands and into Florida to find the Fountain of Youth.
Led by the rumors, the expedition continued the search and many perished. The Fountain was nowhere to be found as locals were unaware of its exact location.
Since the emergence of philosophy, sages and self-proclaimed wizards always made enormous efforts to find the secret of youth, both for themselves and for their noble patrons and sponsors.
It was widely believed that some potions may restore the youth.
Another commonly cited approach was attempting to transfer the essence of youth from young people to old. Some examples of this approach were sleeping with virgins or children (sometimes literally sleeping, not necessarily having sex), bathing in or drinking their blood.
The quest for rejuvenation reached its height with alchemy.
All around Europe, and also beyond, alchemists were looking for the Philosopher's Stone, the mythical substance that, as it was believed, could not only turn lead into gold, but also prolong life and restore youth.
The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Tales of such a fountain have been recounted across the world for thousands of years.
According to an apocryphal story that features a combination of New World and Eurasian elements, Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he traveled to what is now Florida in 1513. Since then, the fountain has been frequently associated with Florida.
Although the set goal was not achieved, alchemy paved the way to the scientific method and so to the medical advances of today.
Serge Abrahamovitch Voronoff was a French surgeon born in Russia who gained fame for his technique of grafting monkey testicle tissue on to the testicles of men while working in France in the 1920s and 1930s.
This was one of the first medically accepted Rejuvenation Therapy (before he was proved to be wrong around 1930–1940).
The technique brought him a great deal of money, although he was already independently wealthy. As his work fell out of favor, he went from being a highly respected surgeon to a subject of ridicule.
By the early 1930s, over 500 men had been treated in France by his rejuvenation technique, and thousands more around the world, such as in a special clinic set up in Algiers.
Noteworthy people who had the surgery included Harold McCormick, chairman of the board of International Harvester Company, and the aging premier of Turkey
In fiction, there is an increasing amount of work being done on possibilities of rejuvenation treatments, and the effect this would have on society. Misspent Youth as well as the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton are one of the most well known examples of this, dealing with the short and long term effects of a near perfect 80-year-old to 20-year-old body change with mind intact.
Also the Mars trilogy deals with a much more imperfect type of rejuvenation, including problems such as long term memory loss and sheer boredom that comes with such age. Also the post mortal characters in the Revelation Space series often illustrate this issue with long term or essentially infinite lifespans, sheer boredom induces them to undertake activities of extreme risk.