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People who died in 2011

Lesser-known but significant figures

Photo: Illustrations by Ben Claassen, License: N/A

Illustrations by Ben Claassen

At the time Ettinger first began seriously pursuing what would eventually be called cryogenics in the early ’60s, the country was beginning to realize concepts that had previously been the stuff of science fiction, most notably the rise of space programs in the United States and Russia. The culmination of Ettinger’s early ideas came in the form of his groundbreaking 1964 book The Prospect of Immortality, which garnered Ettinger, previously a college physics professor, attention and fame from national publications. His growing fame spawned organizations like the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the American Cryonics Society and eventually the Cryonics Institute, which today hosts 107 human “patients,” including Ettinger and his mother and two wives. CI materials include references to scientific accomplishments that make resurrecting cryogenics patients seem not so implausible, including that fertilized eggs can be frozen and later revived to create healthy children.

In a 1987 edition of Immortality, Ettinger details his motivations in a foreword, discussing why cryogenics is a possibility, and how much of the lack of advancement is due to skepticism. “Since 1962, most of you have done nothing,” he writes. “That’s mostly not your fault; many of you had the good sense not to be born until later dates; and most of you had few clues to the real scientific promise of immortalism, or the existence of organized groups of immortalists. Now is your chance to come in out of the dark and secure your unbounded future. … Partake, therefore, of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Laura Dattaro

Michael S. Hart

Founder of Project Gutenberg

On July 4, 1971, Michael S. Hart typed the Declaration of Independence onto the mainframe computer at the University of Illinois, where he had just been given an account after enrolling at the school where his father taught Shakespeare and his mother taught math. He followed soon after with entire books – the Bible, Shakespeare’s plays, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – with the idea of using the network of computers to banish ignorance and illiteracy.

“In retrospect, Project Gutenberg was both prescient and revolutionary,” Richard Poynder wrote in a 2006 blog post featuring an interview with Hart. “In effect, Hart had become the first ‘information provider’ 20 years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web, and at a time when there were, says Hart, just 100 people on the network. Indeed, what was to become the Internet was then viewed as little more than a powerful mechanism for crunching data – not a publishing platform.”

After 17 years, Hart had only about 300 books typed in. Then he got a boost from the University of Illinois PC Users Group, and volunteers got to work. By 2006, Project Gutenberg had about 17,000 e-books uploaded. Now there are more than 36,000.

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