The maximum human life span is about 115 years. And that has not changed for millennia. What has changed more recently is our life expectancy. The average person in ancient Greece and Rome could expect to live about 20 years. By 1900, this had increased to nearly 50 years. Today, people in developed nations can expect to live more than 75 years.

My interest in this subject goes back more than three decades, when I began a book about it. The term "prolongevity" was coined in 1955 by historian Gerald J. Gruman to refer to the significant extension of natural life span by human effort. Unfortunately, the book was sidetracked by another project--founding and growing the Institute for Scientific Information. But my interest in the topic was recently piqued by Leonard Hayflick's excellent book How and Why We Age (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994).

Hayflick overturned the entrenched dogma in...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?