Anticipatory measure: Alex Comfort, experimental gerontology and the measurement of senescence

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences that explores the history of gerontology and senescence.

“Anticipatory measure: Alex Comfort, experimental gerontology and the measurement of senescence,” by Tiago Moreira. Abstract:

Ageing is routinely measured by counting the number of years lived since the birth of an individual but at least since at least the 1930s, the validity, precision and sensitivity of chronological age as a measure has been criticised across the biological and behavioural sciences of ageing. This quest that has been reinforced by the contemporary investment in the possibility of technologically manipulating the rate of ageing to delay the onset the age-associated diseases. This paper explores the epistemic, institutional and political conditions that led to the formulation, at the turhn of the 1970s, of Alex Comfort’s (1920–2000) seminal proposal to measure human biological ageing rate. Drawing on published and archival sources, I argue that Comfort’s suggested measure of ageing can be understood as a form of ‘anticipation work’, and should be understood as an effort to evidence, and to make present, the technological and social promises that Comfort linked to experimental gerontology.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.