Alcor’s First Cryopreservation: Fred Chamberlain, Jr.

July 16, 2006

Thirty years ago, today, a cryonic suspension took place in  Southern California that reflected years of preparation and readiness. Since then, many advances have been made, but then, this represented the best we could do.

The pictures and brief comments you see below are, at best, only an sketchy overview of what developed, of what happened, but if you think of what you see here as the pieces of a small jigsaw puzzle, they’ll fit together for you easily.

Try asking yourself, “If an older relative of mine were in frail condition, and I wanted to do all I could to improve their chances, what could be done?” That was the question we asked ourselves, in the fall of 1970, when we first got together.

As you scan what you see below, try answering those questions for yourself, in your own situation, as things stand for you, right now.  That might help give you ideas that would help you be better prepared, for whatever might happen, in your own situations.

Wishing you a boundless life, now and always,

Fred & Linda Chamberlain

Alcor News August 1976

Alcor News August 1976

Near the end, a cardiobeeper was used to monitor Fred Jr.’s heartrate. The signal from this was routed to an audio output above the nurses’ station in his convalescent hospital. This permitted the staff to be aware of changes in cardiac rate, as if he were being monitored in an ICU, so they could alert the standby team to any changes that might take place. Even today, this would reflect a high state of readiness, in the case of most cryonic suspensions.

A researcher, Mike Federowicz (now, AKA Mike Darwin) participated in the preparations for this suspension, and spent over a year in Southern California engaged in formulating new protocols and assisting with the construction of a mobile laboratory and perfusion center, in anticipation that this would be utilized for a suspension if needed. Here, he and Linda Chamberlain are visiting with Fred Jr., approximately a year before his suspension.

A mobile facility was carefully designed to permit both the application of as good a technology as could be developed, at that time, given the limitations of resources available. An integrated recording system with multiple headphones was installed so that those performing the procedure could hear each other easily over the sounds of equipment, and at the same time, their comments were being recorded on a reel-reel tape recorder. You’ll see these headphones in the suspension pictures below.

None of this came quickly. At the time when Fred Jr.’s arrangements with CSC were cut off (more completely described at the “CSC” link below), the only special-purpose equipment we had to aid in Fred Jr.’s suspension would have been the prototype perfusion machine pictured below (It’s also described in a manual, on-line at the other link below).

Our initial facilities were nil, really “nothing at all.” A home-workshop (in a two-bedroom apartment) had to suffice. Any suspension of Fred Jr. at this stage would have required renting space in a mortuary. The prototype, functional only as an experimental assembly at that time, was built as pictured in the setting below.

Once an organization was incorporated, we had to become “functional.” At first, even with only four active members, a rudimentary state of readiness was developed for immediate rescue. Below is what was carried in all of our cars, at all times. Among the four of us, there were three pagers in service, at all times.

Fred Jr. was the ‘fifth member’ of the organization then, or, perhaps he might be counted as the ‘first,’ since all of the development shown here was driven by his fragile condition, and the need to be able to suspend him if he were to suddenly become terminally ill.

Four active members don’t make a strong organization. We held a seminar on cryonics at the Holiday Inn in Westwood, California. Invitees were attracted to this by a mailing to the subscriber list of the Rational Individualist (later it merged with Reason Magazine). One of those attendees was a physician. Later he became President of Alcor. Below, you see Allen Mc Daniels, M.D., performing surgery during Fred Jr.’s suspension.

Allen Mc Daniels’ interest in cryonics had been inspired by lectures of Andrew J. Galambos through his Free Enterprise Institute. Galambos, an astrophysicist, was an outspoken advocate of cryonics, and talked about it in his lectures. We brought key cryonics individuals into contact with this, in part by arranging for two of the most promising researchers in cryonics to attend a three day course of Galambos’ (Concept 21) at Carmel, CA. Mike Darwin (pictured above with Fred Jr.) was one of them. The other was Greg Fahy (to the right of Fred III in the picture below, at the Highlands Inn during Concept 21 – 1973).

Another who attended the seminar on cryonics described above, along with Allen Mc Daniels, was Laurence Gale. Laurence was also very aware of Galambos’ work and (as a result) interested in cryonics. After Fred Jr.’s suspension, Laurence became President of Alcor and served in that capacity for a number of years. Below, Laurence is pictured mixing perfusate, during Fred Jr.’s suspension.

A great deal of ground work went into preparation. The prototype perfusion apparatus was upgraded in to something more suitable, for one thing. Below, you see this, as what was called an ‘MPA’ (modular perfusion apparatus). A bubble chamber was later designed and added by Mike Darwin. Trans Time, Inc. purchased one of these systems.

The van’s interior required a lot of work. Starting with the empty shell, below, a false ceiling, wall paneling and a floor were added, and equipment was installed. The picture of the interior of the van shown earlier, and those that appear below, can be better appreciated by viewing of the starting point.

A first ‘facility’ was a rented commercial property on Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta. There was space for the van in the back, during modifications, and space within the building for both residential accommodations and laboratory operations (research was being conducted, in the interests of improving the protocol). Below, you see a work table at the rear of the van, with a “toolshed” to the right, in which equipment and materials were stored between work sessions on the weekends. If Fred Jr. had been suspended during this period, what is shown here would have almost certainly been the site of the operation.

About two years after the above location was rented, the van was relocated, housed within one of the units in an industrial park. This permitted the van to have running water and electricity installed, and a drain to the sewer system as well. All that was visible from the outside was what you see below. Inside, it was a different scene entirely. With this space, as it was now equipped, we were even less in need of ‘renting a mortuary.’

There have been a few close-up pictures of people above during Fred Jr.’s suspension, but the below photograph gives a better overall view of the ‘clinical setting.’ Here, Fred Jr.’s grandson (Fred IV), serves as perfusionist, during the infusion of DMSO at stepped-increase concentrations.

The photo you see below shows two H-cylinders in the van. One was filled with oxygen (for the HLR), but the other contained helium! Why helium? One researcher suggested that it might be wise to clear the brain’s circulatory system (after cryoprotection) with helium gas, so that ‘robot surgeons’ as proposed by Robert Ettinger (in Prospect of Immortality) could more easily access the individual neurons to repair them (this was well before Eric Drexler had suggested repair by nanomachines). This helium infusion step was not attempted, in the actual procedure, but provisions were in place, just in case it were found (at the last moment) that this would be a worthwhile and practicable idea.

This was the first neuropreservation, and thus paved the way for all of those that followed. It was necessitated by our logistics situation, but then later became a preferred option for many. This photo is of Fred Jr.’s initial cooldown, as dry ice and methyl alcohol are used to gradually drop temperatures to the point where liquid nitrogen could be brought into play. (Fred III and Fred IV are shown here, with an LR-40 dewer.)

In 1962, fourteen years prior to his suspension, here are Fred Jr. and ‘Betty,’ at Indian Head, Maryland. Betty suffered what appeared to be a heart attack in late 1969. It was, in fact, the Hong Kong flu, that seems now to have been the cause of her death. (Hong Kong flu placed great stress on the heart and caused many apparent ‘heart attack mortalities,’ and Betty did have Hong Kong flu.) It was too soon to have made arrangements for her to be frozen, but, it warns us all: death can come upon us very unexpectedly.

Now, the deepest, most complete and intimate memories of Betty reside with Fred Jr., as he coasts forward in time, at the temperature of liquid nitrogen. In this way she may live on too, in his mind, never to be forgotten. It was to a great extent the tragedy of her loss that led to the resolve that he would not be lost, in the same way.

Laurence Gale followed Allen Mc Daniels as President of the organization, and served in this role for a number of years. Allen Mc Daniels dropped out along the way, and so did Laurence Gale, at a later time. We ourselves, as you see below, are now members of another group. Most of those who made Fred Jr.’s suspension possible no longer have arrangements, so far as we know.

We are hopeful that at some future time a reanimation team will restore the maximum level of identity possible for Fred Jr., and that he will resume his life, in a future where ‘no one ever grows old.’ We hope that we will be there, to welcome him back and share new adventures with him! Life is uncertain, but however uncertain it might be, it seems in all cases preferable to the ‘certainty’ of ordinary death.