History of Life-Extensionism

Ilia Stambler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Life-extensionism is the proposition of the possibility and desirability of a significant amelioration of the degenerative aging process and prolongation of healthy human life. This article surveys seminal trends and works in the history of life extensionism, from the ancient times to the present. The article considers ancient sources, where proto-science merges with myth; the history of medical alchemy and its descendent iatrochemistry (medical chemistry); the works in early physiology in relation to the pursuit of longevity. It presents the principles of Gerocomia (the care of the aged), from the Greco-Roman antiquity through the early modern period, and the influence of Gerocomia on the formation of prolongevity hygiene in the 18th century. The true beginning of scientific life-extensionism can be traced to the late nineteenth—early 20th century, the time of the emergence of gerontology and geriatrics. The aftermath of WWII presents a shift of emphasis from rejuvenative endocrinology (or organotherapy) to replacement medicine, molecular biology and cybernetics. Many themes raised since the 1950s–1960s have persisted to the present, though the scope and dissemination of research have continuously expanded.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Biomedical Gerontology
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-3
ISBN (Electronic)9780128160763
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Aging
  • Aging-related diseases
  • Geriatrics
  • Gerocomia
  • Gerontology
  • Healthspan
  • Life extensionism
  • Longevity hygiene
  • Medical history


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