From Cryonics 2nd Quarter 2010

Death of
Robert Prehoda


by Mike Perry

Robert Prehoda

I am sad to report the likely death of Robert W. Prehoda, one of the early pioneers in the cryonics movement. Prehoda took part in the freezing of James Bedford, Jan. 12, 1967, usually regarded as the first "real" cryonics case, done under controlled conditions for the purpose of eventual reanimation. (Bedford after his freezing was maintained by relatives until becoming an Alcor patient in the 1980s; he is still being cared for by Alcor.) Prehoda was a chemist, reduced metabolism expert, and futurist who promoted his ideas through a number of books including Suspended Animation; a paragraph from this 1969 study shows his forward thinking:

“20th century man naturally turns to science in his never-ending search for immortality. Reduced metabolism is the new branch of biomedical research which offers the tantalizing promise of allow­ing each of us to achieve a door into the future. 'Reduced metabo­lism' is a collective term for all of the various means of slowing down the rate—or speed—of biological processes in cells, organs and whole animals. Life processes can be slowed by lowering the temperature, or through highly specific biochemical reactions that slow metabolic activity by chemical interference. The purpose of this book is to outline, for the intelligent reader, the present status and future promise of the various scientific disciplines and specific research investigations that promise, collectively, to make reduced metabolism an area of potential revolutionary impact in the next few years.”[1]

Unfortunately, Prehoda was not favorable to cryonics despite promoting "reduced metabolism" through, among other things, "lowering the temperature" and despite involvement in the Bedford freezing (reportedly at the request of the son, to document what happened [2]). He felt that, under then-current techniques, the all-important brain tissue would be "damaged beyond any conceptual means of future repair and restoration to original function"[3] and that cryonics was diverting funds that ought to go to relatives of the deceased or be used for research [4].

Prehoda at Bedford cryopreservation Robert Prehoda at James Bedford's freezing in Glendale, Calif., Jan. 12, 1967. Prehoda injects cryoprotectant while Dante Brunol, background, holds face mask to facilitate oxygen delivery to the patient. (This is possibly a posed shot but does illustrate the sort of procedure that was followed, with an Iron Heart to maintain chest compressions, inducing air intake and, in theory, maintaining blood flow while cryoprotectant consisting of a DMSO solution was injected. Modern procedures differ considerably from this. I thank Robert Nelson for making this picture available.)

His opposition led to estrangement from the cryonics movement and, as the years went by, those involved heard less and less of him and his whereabouts were unknown. (The last time, to my knowledge, that he had significant contact with a cryonics person was in October 1991 when I interviewed him. He had a serious drinking problem then, and what he said was unreliable.) Recent attempts by some of us to contact him or learn his whereabouts were futile. Finally someone informed me of his apparent passing.

A Social Security death record shows a Robert W. Prehoda with the following information: SSN: 557-40-3073; last residence: 91344 Granada Hills, Los Angeles, California; born: 7 Jul 1931, died: 11 Jun 2009. This appears to be him. Another record reports Robert Wayne Prehoda born 7 Jul 1931 Santa Barbara County, California, mother's maiden name: Kady. There is more information in California public records probably about him, including data on marriages and divorces. (Although multiple individuals have the name Robert Prehoda, the middle initial "W" appears to be unique or rare enough that positive identification based on that and residence in California seems reliable.) In any case it is regrettable that he did not rethink his position on cryonics, which it appears he had actually formed prior to even that early freezing in which he took part. In the more than 40 years of his life since the Bedford case, procedures would change and improve greatly, while new conceptual means of tissue repair involving nanotechnology would raise hopes for cases that "experts" had previously dismissed.

References

All citations except as noted are from Robert W. Prehoda, Suspended Animation: the Research Possibility That May Allow Man to Conquer the Limiting Chains of Time, Philadelphia: Chilton, 1969.

1. p. 5

2. p. 115

3. p. 113, quoted from Freeze-Wait-Reanimate, August-September 1966, p. 2.

4. p. 119

Photo at top of page: Robert Prehoda from an interview in Cryonics Reports, January 1969 p. 8.