In 1964, Ettinger's father, Robert Ettinger, published the book The Prospect of Immortality, in which he detailed his plan for prolonging life through what would become cryonics. The ideas were first expressed in a science fiction story that the elder Ettinger had published a few years prior.
The first patient was frozen just three years later, in 1967. Twelve years after that, Robert Ettinger founded the Cryonics Institute and, soon after, froze his first patient. Since then, the institute has become home to more patients, as well as about a dozen cats and dogs.
Of course, cryonics has its critics, many of whom contend that the freezing process alone would do irreparable damage to a patient.
"There would be substantial hurdles," said Larry Thompson, a spokesman for the National Human Genome Research Institute.
"Ted is gone, and the first thing people have to do is accept that. These companies aren't selling science, they are selling hope," said Thompson describing cryonics as "really out there."
Among the technologies cryonics enthusiasts are hoping the future will provide is the ability to unfreeze them. No one has ever been unfrozen, and even the centers aren't sure how to do it.
Cryonics, said Thompson, "isn't based in the foundations of science."