James Hiram Bedford (April 20, 1893 – January 12, 1967) was an American psychology professor at the University of California who wrote several books on occupational counseling. He is the first person whose body was cryopreserved after legal death, and who remains preserved at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
In June 1965, Ev Cooper’s Life Extension Society (LES) offered the opportunity to preserve one person free of charge, stating that "the Life Extension Society now has primitive facilities for emergency short term freezing and storing our friend the large homeotherm (man). LES offers to freeze free of charge the first person desirous and in need of cryogenic suspension." Bedford did not take this opportunity, however, but later used his own funds.
April 1966 saw the first case in history of a person — an unknown middle-aged woman from Los Angeles — frozen with some thought given to them possibly being reanimated in the future, but it was not a true cryopreservation as was done first with Bedford; rather, she was placed in liquid nitrogen about two months after being embalmed. She was soon thawed out and buried by relatives.
Bedford suffered from kidney cancer that had later metastasized into his lungs, a condition that was untreatable at the time. Bedford left $100,000 to cryonics research in his will, but more than this amount was utilized by Bedford's wife and son in court, having to defend his will and his cryopreservation due to arguments created by other relatives.
Bedford's body was frozen a few hours after his death due to natural causes related to his cancer. His body was preserved by Robert Prehoda (author of the 1969 book Suspended Animation), Dr. Dante Brunol (physician and biophysicist) and Robert Nelson (President of the Cryonics Society of California). Nelson then wrote a book about the subject titled We Froze the First Man. Compared to those employed by modern cryonics organizations, the use of cryoprotectants in Bedford's case was primitive. He was injected with dimethyl sulfoxide, a compound once thought to be useful for long-term cryogenics, so it is unlikely that his brain was protected. Vitrification was not yet possible, further limiting the possibility of Bedford's eventual recovery. In his first suspended animation stages, his body was stored at Edward Hope's Cryo-Care facility in Phoenix, Arizona, for two years, then in 1969 moved to the Galiso facility in California. Bedford's body was moved from Galiso in 1973 to Trans Time near Berkeley, California, until 1977, before being stored by his son for many years.
Bedford's body was maintained in liquid nitrogen by his family in southern California until 1982, when it was then moved to Alcor Life Extension Foundation, and has remained in Alcor's care to the present day. In May 1991, his body's condition was evaluated when he was moved to a new storage dewar. The examiners concluded that "it seems likely that his external temperature has remained at relatively low subzero temperatures throughout the storage interval."
Bedford married twice. His first wife, Anna Chandler Rice, died in 1917, the same year she and Bedford were married. Bedford married his second wife, Ruby McLagan, in 1920. Bedford and McLagan had five children: Doris, Donald, Frances, Barbara and Norman. James Bedford enjoyed photography and extensive traveling.
When he died ... his physician ... began to pack the body in ice ... They spent eight hours, sending out periodically for more ice...