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Life on IceA History of New Uses for Cold Blood$
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Joanna Radin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226417318

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226448244.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 08 May 2021

Latent Life in Biomedicine’s Ice Age

Latent Life in Biomedicine’s Ice Age

(p.17) One Latent Life in Biomedicine’s Ice Age
Life on Ice

Joanna Radin

University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes the history of cryobiology and its role in the creation of the biomedical infrastructure known as the biobank. The concepts and practices involved in making life capable of being successfully frozen and thawed grew from the thermodynamic interactions of biology and industry, medicine and the military, from the nineteenth century through the Cold War. Technologies of cold storage, developed initially for the preservation of the flesh of dead livestock and later for the maintenance of their living gametes, found their way into the biomedical laboratory through multiple channels. The chapter explores this history through the career of a Catholic priest and biophysicist named Basile Luyet who, in the 1930s, cultivated a cosmology of cold that revolved around efforts to understand what he called “latent life." For Luyet, latency—a form of suspended animation—was a liminal space between active life and certain death that could be used to probe the ambiguous boundary between the two states. Latency would also come to refer to untapped or concealed potential of life or life forms that had been redirected in time through the use of low temperature.

Keywords:   latent life, suspended animation, cryopreservation, cryobiology

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