THE BLOG
09/29/2016 10:04 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

Dare To Be 100: Len And I

Leonard Hayflick and I share much. We were both born in Philadelphia. Now eight decades later we both live in Northern California, Leonard at Sea Ranch and I in Palo Alto. We both matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his PhD in cellular biology and I received my M.D. in 1955. We both cheered the same teams, the Eagles and the Phillies. We even recall seeing Connie Mack in the dugout in his nineties.

Thereafter our careers diverged. Len went on to a distinguished career in cellular biology culminating in his Nobel worthy discovery that cells when grown in vitro had only a restricted replicative capacity associated with shortened telomeres. This limited capacity became known as the Hayflick Limit. This major finding overturned the previously accepted dogma of infinite reproduction and its derivative implication of immortality.

My personal immersion into the aging field was more circuitous, but similarly involved a novel crucial observation that aging and disuse look alike. I recorded my insight in a JAMA paper in 1982 "Disuse and Aging". Trying to figure out this homology led me to an awareness of thermodynamics and its critical Second Law. Pursuing this path eagerly I wrote a paper in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology in 1982, title: "Aging as Entropy" The editor of the journal and ultimately the final referee for my paper was Leonard.

Both Len and I married Ruths. His Ruth died last year of valvular heart disease while my Ruth died last July of Alzheimer's Disease. We commiserate communally.

Leonard went on to become president of the Gerontologic Society of America, GSA. I became president of the American Geriatrics Society,AGS, in 1956.

My interest in the biology of aging was spurred on my by observations with frailty which intersect with the basic processes of aging. Leonard wrote a central paper in the Journal of the New York Academy of Medicine entitled "Aging is no Longer an Unknown." In it he invokes the Second Law as the First Principle from which the many secondary correlates of aging evolve.

I have involved Len in the faculty of my courses that I teach here at Stanford:The Science of Longevity", and am currently conducting at the Santa Barbara City College. We lectured there on Monday.

We are fervent in our insistence that aging is not a disease and therefore will not yield itself to slick technical or pharmacologic maneuvers. We are firm that we are observers of Nature's basic Laws that are not flauntable. The errant notion that technology, given enough to play itself out, will yield immortality sours rationality. There is no simply no respite from the Second Law. No, Google will not solve death.

Len and I insist.