Extract from the archives: Is there a limit to human life?
People have always been fascinated by the question of human longevity. In this 1954 article for Technology Review, James A. Tobey, author of more than a dozen books on public health, including Your diet for a longer life (1948), noted that despite some frauds claiming to be over 150 years old, “the consensus of scientific opinion is that there is a definite limit to human life, a limit now and perhaps forever around 100 years”.
By 1954, the average life expectancy of an American at birth had risen from 47 to 68 in 1900. But most of the progress came not from older people living longer, but from infants avoiding death before they were born. first birthday. The average person’s chances of living to 100 in mid-twentieth-century America, Tobey observed, were “no better than they were in the days of the Roman Empire. “.
We’ve done better since: the average life expectancy has reached nearly 79 years in the United States before declining in recent years, largely due to the covid-19 pandemic. But as this issue of TR reveals, the quest to keep pushing the upper limit of our years continues.