Musing about mortality

The convergence of tools, money and technology make this the most important period of scientific discovery since the Renaissance, said writer and journalist Stephen S. Hall in a talk at The Wistar Institute on May 4.

Advances in stem cell research—though now severely curtailed by the U.S. government—and discoveries about cells and genes have raised numerous questions about aging, health and immortality. But for all of these advances and magic elixirs that promise longer lives, Hall, a New York Times contributing writer, argued that “the quality of life has to be a component in this argument or it’s not worth having.”

Covering the ground he explores in more depth in his book, “Merchants of Immortality” (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), Hall explained how cell studies started in the early 1960s by then-Wistar researcher Leonard Hayflick led to the development of childhood vaccines and raised the first questions about a scientist’s ownership of a discovery, as well as laying the groundwork for modern stem cell research.

Originally published on May 13, 2004