The Quick 8: Eight People Who Have Been Cryonically Preserved (and one who wasn't)

Getty Images
Getty Images

1. Dr. James Bedford, a psych professor at the University of California, was the first person to ever be cryonically preserved. The choice to be preserved by freezing was entirely his; he even left money for a steel capsule and liquid nitrogen in his will. So, when he died on January 12, 1967, his family abided by his wishes. It was a big day in the cryonics community, and they still refer to January 12 as "Bedford Day." My favorite part of the whole thing is the title of the article Time magazine did on event: "Never Say Die." Bedford was switched to a different tank in 1991 and it would appear that everything has held up thus far.

2. Dick Clair Jones was in the television industry: he was a producer, actor and writer who had a hand in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Facts of Life and Mama's Family. He was also really interested in cryonics and was a member of the Cryonics Society of California. In 1988, he died of AIDS-related infections and was immediately put on ice – literally, as you can see from the picture. There's an account of the whole process here, which is fascinating, if not bizarre.

3. Thomas K. Donaldson, a mathematician, had ideas about death that were even stranger than cryonics. He believed that even though people were "dead," their brains continued to exist and have functionality and we just don't have the technology to access it yet. For his sake, let's hope that's true; he died in 2006 and is assumed to have been cryonically preserved. He seemed to be pretty confident that he would be back someday; in a 1982 interview, when asked for a piece of wisdom to pass on to cryonicists, he said, "I'm sure that any profound piece of wisdom I might have would seem really rather stupid in 300 years. So I think it would be better for me to say nothing, so I don't feel ashamed of myself in 300 years."

4. FM-2030. Yeah, that was his real name. He was born Fereidoun M. Esfandiary, but changed his name to reflect his goal of living to be 100 (2030 would have been his 100th birthday). He also predicted that 2030 would be "a magical time. In 2030 we will be ageless and everyone will have an excellent chance to live forever. 2030 is a dream and a goal."

He died in 2000 at the age of 69 when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was cryogenically frozen because he believed that people would soon develop synthetic organs and body parts that would make the notion of death a thing of the past. He called the pancreas a "stupid, dumb, wretched organ," which kind of made me laugh.

5. Dora Kent is a sad tale (maybe). Her son, Saul, was a board member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation (most of these cryogenically-frozen people were frozen by Alcor and are stored in their facilities). In 1987 at the age of 84, she came down with a fatal case of pneumonia and was unable to recover. When it looked like death was upon her, she was brought to the Alcor facilities so they could freeze her when she died. And they did, with no doctor present. When a coroner later inspected her headless body (Alcor removed the head for scientific purposes, I guess), he first agreed with the pneumonia assessment, and then reversed his decision and said he thought she was murdered. Certain metabolites found in her body led him to believe that she was alive when they started to freeze her. He demanded Dora's head for further testing, and Alcor refused to produce it. Some of the Alcor members were arrested, but nothing came of it and no one was ever charged with anything.

6. Jerry Leaf was Alcor's vice president until his death in 1991, so it only stands to reason that he was frozen when he died of heart attack.

7. Ted Williams is without a doubt the most famous cryogenically frozen person (that we know of). But the circumstances surrounding his freezing are a bit controversial. His son, John-Henry Williams, was adamant that his father wanted to be preserved to be brought back in the future, and wanted his whole family to follow suit so they could be reunited when technology and medicine made it possible. However, Ted's will said he wanted to be cremated, and his daughter by his first wife took John-Henry to court over the matter. John-Henry produced a "family pact" signed on a cocktail napkin, which seems pretty strange to me. Why would you write your last wishes on a cocktail napkin and expect it to hold up in court? Anyway, after much debate over authenticity, the napkin-pact was allowed and Ted was frozen. Which leads us to number eight...

8. John-Henry Williams. Yep, Ted's son stayed true to his word. Despite a bone marrow transplant from his sister, John-Henry died of leukemia on March 6, 2004, and joined his dad at Alcor in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Noticeably missing from the list? Walt Disney. Despite the persisting rumors, Walt was not frozen. After his death in 1966, Walt was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

q10

6 Inventors Killed by Their Own Inventions

Franz Reichelt is now remembered as the "flying tailor."
Franz Reichelt is now remembered as the "flying tailor."
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Not all inventions lead to glory. Some fail, while others tragically end in death. Here are six inventors who were killed by the very contraptions they created.

1. Franz Reichelt

On February 4, 1912, Austrian-born French tailor Franz Reichelt climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower in a wingsuit of his own design. The tailor had told French authorities he planned to test the suit using dummies, but upon his arrival at the tower, he announced that he would make the jump himself. His friends tried to dissuade him, citing wind speed and other factors—including previously unsuccessful attempts with dummies—but Reichelt was not moved. He would not use a safety rope or any other precautions. “I want to try the experiment myself and without trickery, as I intend to prove the worth of my invention,” he told journalists.

Newspapers described the suit as “only a little more voluminous than ordinary clothing” that, when extended, resembled "a sort of cloak fitted with a vast hood of silk." To release the parachute, which had a surface area of 320 square feet and a height of 16 feet, Reichelt merely had to extend his arms out so his body was in a cross position.

By 8:22 a.m., Reichelt was at the top of the Eiffel Tower. He adjusted the suit, and, facing the Seine, tested the wind direction by tossing a scrap of paper off the edge. Then, he placed one foot on the guardrail, and—observed by 30 journalists, two cinematographers (one up top, and one of the ground), and crowds gathered below—jumped (You can watch his fall here, but take note: it may be unsettling for some people.)

The parachute folded around Reichelt almost immediately; he plummeted for a few seconds before hitting the ground 187 feet below, leaving a crater 5.9 inches deep. His injuries were gruesome—in its April 1912 issue, Popular Mechanics reported that "his body was a shapeless mass when the police picked it up"—and the tailor was dead by the time onlookers reached him. An autopsy later determined he died of a heart attack during his fall.

2. Thomas Midgley, Jr.

Black and white image of a man wearing glasses
Some of Thomas Midgley Jr.'s inventions wound up causing quite a bit of harm.
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Midgley, Jr., an American engineer and chemist, developed additives for gasoline as well as CFCs, and was awarded over 100 patents in his lifetime. When he contracted polio at age 51, he applied that inventor’s spirit to his impairment, creating a system of strings and pulleys that would make it easier for others to lift him out of bed. In 1944, when he was 55, Midgley became entangled in the ropes and was strangled by them.

3. Henry Smolinski

Engineer Henry Smolinski wanted to create a commercially viable flying car, so he quit his job at Northrop and started Advanced Vehicle Engineers. In 1973, the company built two prototype vehicles, called AVE Mizars, by fusing the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster airplane—which could be attached and detached from the car—with a Ford Pinto. The chimera vehicles were due to go into production in 1974, but on September 11, 1973, Smolinski and his friend and business partner Harold Blake were killed when the wing strut detached from the vehicle during a test flight. Bad welds were responsible for the crash.

4. Karel Soucek

A giant sports stadium on a cloudy day
The site of Karel Soucek's tragic demise.
Bukowsky18, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1984, Czechoslovakian-born stuntman Karel Soucek went over Niagara Falls in a custom-built, shock-absorbent barrel that was 9 feet long and 5 feet in diameter. He emerged, alive but bleeding, at the bottom, and decided to build a museum dedicated to his stunting equipment in Niagara Falls, Ontario. To finance the project, he convinced a company to sponsor another crazy stunt: Dropping the barrel, with Soucek inside, 180 feet from the top of the Houston Astrodome into a tank of water as part of a Thrill Show and Destruction Derby to be held on January 20, 1985.

Even daredevil Evel Knievel tried to talk Soucek out of the stunt, calling it “the most dangerous I’ve ever seen,” but the stuntman proceeded anyway. When the barrel was released, it began to spin dangerously, hitting the rim of the water tank instead of landing in the center. The 37-year-old’s chest and abdomen were crushed and his skull was fractured; he died at a hospital while the show was still going on.

5. William Nelson

On October 3, 1903, 24-year-old General Electric employee William Nelson took the new motorized bicycle he had invented out for a test spin. He fell off the bike on a hill and died instantly. According to the New York Times, “Nelson was regarded as an inventor of much promise.”

6. Valerian Ivanovich Abakovsky

Valerian Abakovsky was just 25 when he invented the Aerowagon, a high-speed railcar equipped with an aircraft engine and propeller traction, which was designed to take Soviet officials to and from Moscow. On July 24, 1921, a group of Communists—including Abakovsky, revolutionary Fyodor Sergeyev, and four others—took the Aerocar out for a test run. The vehicle successfully made the trip from Moscow to Tula, but on the way back, it derailed at high speed, killing six of the 22 people on board.

Konami Code Creator Kazuhisa Hashimoto Has Died

Hashimoto used the Nintendo controller to give game testers an advantage.
Hashimoto used the Nintendo controller to give game testers an advantage.
William Warby, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Kazuhisa Hashimoto, the video game developer responsible for making video games a little easier on players of the 1980s, has died at age 79. (Some reports, however, place his age at 61.) The news comes from video game manufacturer Konami, which posted about his death on Twitter Wednesday morning.

Hashimoto created the “Konami Code,” a button-pressing sequence on the Nintendo Entertainment System controller, that granted users advantages in games like Contra. The sequence (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start) was originally put in the 1986 NES port of the arcade game Gradius, because Hashimoto realized the difficulty level was high, and he wanted a way to make it easy to play through to check for bugs during testing. The code gave the user a full cache of weapons.

No one bothered to take the code out of the game when it shipped, and word eventually leaked that the sequence could make playing through it easier. The code subsequently showed up in other games, most notably 1988’s NES release of Contra, where it granted players 30 extra lives. Hashimoto said he used the sequence because it would be almost impossible to input it by accident while handling the controller.

Hashimoto joined Konami in the early 1980s and worked on circuit boards for coin-operated games. When he began developing games, like 1984’s Track and Field, he was prone to inserting Easter eggs. In Track and Field, a player tossing a javelin too high might discover they've hit a passing UFO.

The Konami Code has entered pop culture in a major way, appearing everywhere from other games to movies like 2012's Wreck-It Ralph.

[h/t Geek.com]

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