See the Alcor at Work Photo Gallery
In 1964, a physics teacher named Robert Ettinger published The Prospect of Immortality, a book which promoted the concept of cryonics to a wide audience. Ettinger subsequently founded his own cryonics organization.
In 1972, Alcor was incorporated as the Alcor Society for Solid State Hypothermia in the State of California by Fred and Linda Chamberlain. (The name was changed to Alcor Life Extension Foundation in 1977.) The nonprofit organization was conceived as a rational, technology-oriented cryonics organization that would be managed on a fiscally conservative basis by a self perpetuating Board. Alcor advertised in direct mailings and offered seminars in order to attract members and bring attention to the cryonics movement. The first of these seminars attracted 30 people.
On July 16, 1976, Alcor performed its first human cryopreservation. That same year, research in cryonics began with initial funding provided by the Manrise Corporation. At this time, Alcor's office consisted of a mobile surgical unit in a large van. Trans Time, Inc., a cryonics organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, provided long-term patient storage until Alcor began doing its own storage in 1982.
In 1977, articles of incorporation were filed in Indianapolis by the Institute for Advanced Biological Studies (IABS) and Soma, Inc. IABS was a nonprofit research startup led by a young cryonics enthusiast named Steve Bridge, while Soma was intended as a for-profit organization to provide cryopreservation and human storage services. Its president, Mike Darwin, subsequently became a president of Alcor. Bridge filled the same position many years later. IABS and Soma relocated to California in 1981. (Soma was disbanded while IABS merged with Alcor in 1982.)
In 1978, Cryovita Laboratories was founded by Jerry Leaf, who had been teaching surgery at UCLA. Cryovita was a for-profit organization which provided cryopreservation services for Alcor in the 1980s. During this time Leaf also collaborated with Michael Darwin in a series of hypothermia experiments in which dogs were resuscitated with no measurable neurological deficit after hours in deep hypothermia, just a few degrees above zero Celsius. The blood substitute which was developed for these experiments became the basis for the washout solution used at Alcor. Together, Leaf and Darwin developed a standby-transport model for human cryonics cases with the goal of intervening immediately after cardiac arrest and minimizing ischemic injury. (Leaf was cryopreserved by Alcor in 1991; since 1992 Alcor has provided its own cryopreservation as well as patient-storage services.) Today, Alcor is the only full-service cryonics organization that performs remote standbys.
Alcor grew slowly in its early years, before the concept of nanotechnology helped to legitimize the possibility that future science could repair cell damage caused by freezing. The organization counted only 50 members in 1985, which was the year it cryopreserved its third patient.
Alcor personnel prepare patient A-1068 for cryopreservation in Fullerton, California, 1985. See full case report
In 1986 some of Alcor's members formed Symbex, a small investment company which funded a building in Riverside, California, for lease by Alcor. That same year, Eric Drexler introduced the concept of nanotechnology in his landmark book, Engines of Creation. Alcor moved from Fullerton, California, to the new building in Riverside in 1987.
Alcor cryopreserved a member's companion animal in 1986, and two people in 1987. Three human cases were handled in 1988, and one in 1989.
By 1990 Alcor had grown to 300 members. In response to concerns that the California facility was too small and vulnerable to earthquake risk, the organization purchased a building in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993 and moved its patients to it in 1994 (see page on Why Scottsdale?).
In 1997, after a substantial effort led by then-president Steve Bridge, Alcor formed the Patient Care Trust as an entirely separate entity to manage and protect the funding for cryopatients. Alcor remains the only cryonics organization to segregate and protect patient funding in this way.
In 2001 Alcor adapted cryoprotectant formulas from published scientific literature into a more concentrated formula capable of achieving ice-free preservation (vitrification) of the human brain ("neurovitrification").
Near the end of 2002 Alcor embarked on an ambitious expansion project, taking over another unit in its Scottsdale building (where remaining units currently are rented to other tenants). The first issue of an online newsletter, Alcor News, was distributed late in 2002. During 2003, new staff members joined the organization and work continued to create a new patient care bay, operating room, and laboratory area. A truck was purchased for conversion as an ambulance that would be large enough to permit surgical procedures. Alcor made radical changes to its medications to conform with results of resuscitation research, and purchased the prototype of an intermediate temperature storage device that promises to reduce or eliminate the risk of fracturing in cryopatients.