Date Published: September 24, 2004
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Partial Text: Ever since the early Greeks recast humans as the center of the universe and remade God in their own image, Western philosophers and poets have grappled with the limits of human mortality. Philosophers found relief from Keats’s “unwilling sleep” by dividing human existence into body and soul and asserting that the true essence of humanity lies in the immortal soul, not in the body. Ironically, as this decidedly nonscientific subject has lost favor with modern-day philosophers, it has captured the imagination of scientists. But, for now at least, the interest is in prolonging life rather than escaping mortality.