The Genius Who Killed Himself Trying to Become Immortal

Alexander Bogdanov wasn't much of a big name in America, but in the Soviet Union he was famous. A science fiction writer, doctor, and pioneer of cybernetics, he was curious about everything. Including the thing that killed him.

Above, Bogdanov playing chess with Lenin

Alexander Bogdanov was a communist before communism was cool. In 1916, when he was serving as a doctor during World War I, he wrote about the politics of war economies and anticipated the military-industrial complex. After the revolution, he criticized and turned away from Bolshevik communism and went on to become a lot of other things before they were cool.

For example, he became an early science fiction writer. His novel, Red Star, painted the picture of utopia where manual labor was done by automatons and people either spent their time working to further their culture or contemplating the progress that that culture had made. Fortunately, for those who can't appreciate such thrilling fiction, he also wrote essays about systems analysis that were the precursors to cybernetics. And just to round it out, he wrote poetry.

Unfortunately for him, he kept up with his medical work, especially hematology. He became interested in the possibilities of blood transfusions, especially when it came to life extension. Bogdanov believed he might even make himself immortal if he transfused enough. In the 1920s, he gave himself transfusion after transfusion, and published articles on its salubrious effects. His eyesight was better, he claimed. He had stopped balding. Friends egged him on in this, telling him he looked ten years younger.

To us, today, it's obvious that things were heading for disaster. Bogdanov's ability to transfuse blood far outstripped his ability to test blood. He transfused blood from a malarial student. The student survived. Bogdanov died.

[Via The Life and Death of Alexander Bogdanov, Mad Scientist Blog.]