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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/787

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THE ART OF PROLONGING LIFE.

be multiplied by five, the result will in all probability not be far from the truth.

If we seek historical evidence, and from it attempt to discover the extreme limit of human life, we are puzzled at the differences in the ages said to have been attained. The longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs when contrasted with our modern experience seems incredible. When we look at an individual, say ninety years of age, taking even the most favorable specimen, a prolongation of life to ten times that number of years would appear too absurd even to dream about. There is certainly no physiological reason why the ages assigned to the patriarchs should not have been attained, and it is useless to discuss the subject, for we know very little of the conditions under which they lived. It is interesting to notice that after the Flood there was a gradual decrease in the duration of life. Abraham is recorded to have died at one hundred and seventy-five; Joshua, some five hundred years later, "waxed old and stricken in age" shortly before his death at one hundred and ten years; and his predecessor, Moses, to whom one hundred and twenty years are assigned, is believed to have estimated the life of man at threescore years and ten—a measure nowadays pretty generally accepted.

There is no reason for believing that the extreme limit of human life in the time of the Greeks and Romans differed materially from that which agrees with modern experience. Stories of the attainment of such ages as one hundred and twenty years and upward may be placed in the same category as the reputed longevity of Henry Jenkins, Thomas Parr, Lady Desmond, and a host of others. With regard to later times, such as the middle ages, there are no precise data upon which any statements can be based, but there is every reason to believe that the average duration of life was decidedly less than it is at present. The extreme limit, indeed, three or four centuries ago, would appear to have been much lower than it is in the nineteenth century. At the request of Mr. Thoms, Sir J. Duffus Hardy investigated the subject of the longevity of man in the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, and his researches led him to believe that persons seldom reached the age of eighty. He never met with a trustworthy record of a person who exceeded that age.

To bring the investigation down to quite recent times, I can not do better than utilize the researches of Dr. Humphry, Professor of Surgery at Cambridge. In 1886 he obtained particulars relating to fifty-two individuals then living and said to be one hundred years old and upward. The oldest among them claimed to be one hundred and eight, the next one hundred and six, while the average amounted to a little more than one hundred and two years. Many interesting facts connected with the habits and