Lindbergh’s quest for immortality

By | May 29, 2008

Flying had a strange effect on the great aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, leading him to team up with a French surgeon and embark on a quest for ever-lasting life… for a chosen few.

What do you know about Charles Lindbergh?

You probably know he was an American aviator. He achieved overnight world stardom when he became the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, solo, in 1927.

You might also know that Lindbergh was strongly opposed to American involvement in World War II – until Pearl Harbor, after which he volunteered to fly combat missions in the Pacific.

And you might know that in later life he became a prolific author, an explorer and an environmentalist.

But did you know that he was also a machine-obsessed inventor, who entered into a macabre alliance with a French-born surgeon to try to achieve immortality?

Forget aviation hero. On the side, Lindbergh was a Dr Frankenstein figure, who used his mechanical genius to explore the possibility of conquering death – but only for the select few who were considered “worthy” of living forever.

“Beating death was something he thought about his entire life”, says David M Friedman, American author of the new book The Immortalists. …In the 1930s, after his historic flight over the Atlantic, Lindbergh hooked up with Alexis Carrel, a brilliant surgeon born in France but who worked in a laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute in Manhattan. Carrel – who was a mystic as well as a scientist – had already won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on the transplantation of blood vessels. But his real dream was a future in which the human body would become, in Friedman’s words, “a machine with constantly reparable or replaceable parts”. …

At the Rockefeller lab, Lindbergh and Carrel – almost like a real-life Jekyll and Hyde double act – made some extraordinary breakthroughs.

Lindbergh created something that Carrel’s team had singularly failed to: a perfusion pump that could keep a human organ alive outside of the body. It was called the “Model T” pump. In later years, Lindbergh’s pump was further developed by others, eventually leading to the construction of the first heart-lung machine. … Even contemporary transhumanists – the name given to those who want to extend human longevity and possibly conquer death – are surprised to hear about Lindbergh’s contribution to machine-assisted life. – bbc

What is so “deranged” about wanting to live forever? Seems like a natural but currently unobtainable desire. Would you wish to go on existing in some form after your natural death as a post-human?

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