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February 18, 1974

The End of Life

Author Affiliations

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Cincinnati

JAMA. 1974;227(7):805. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230200063028

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These discussions on the predicament of the end of life occurred at the 1972 Nobel Conference before an audience that included representatives from universities and high schools. The Harvard biologist, George Wald, talked about the "Origin of Death"; the Swedish physiologist, U. S. von Euler, discussed "Physiology and Aspects of Aging and Death"; Nathan A. Scott, Jr., Professor of Theology and Literature at Chicago, presented "The Modern Imagination of Death"; Alexander Comfort, Director of Medical Research Council on Aging, University College, London, discussed "Changing the Life Span"; and the topic of Krister Stendahl, Dean of the Harvard Divinity School, was "Immortality is Too Much and Too Little."

Wald's charming essay traces life from the first primitive organisms. All living creatures do not die; death seems to have been a rather late invention in evolution. Every creature alive today represents an unbroken line of life that stretches back some three billion