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Atkin, S. (1941). The Problems of Aging, Biological and Medical Aspects. A Publication of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation: Edited by E. V. Cowdry. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1939. 758 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 10:135-141.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 10:135-141

The Problems of Aging, Biological and Medical Aspects. A Publication of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation: Edited by E. V. Cowdry. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1939. 758 pp.

Review by:
Samuel Atkin

We must thank Professor E. V. Cowdry for a most successful synthesizing of current knowledge bearing on an important medical problem. What he has achieved by this symposium is more than a summary, more than a survey. This comprehensive exposition of the biological, medical, psychological, and sociological data bearing on the problems of aging creates valuable total impressions and stimulates new thought.

New avenues for investigation are suggested and new therapeutic goals proposed. The psychoanalyst who is better versed in the lore of eros meets here with the less familiar work of thanatos. Many authoritative collaborators open up fascinating vistas by their discussions of those biological problems basically connected with the problems of growth, aging, and death. It is futile to attempt even the briefest summary of these solidly packed pages. Only a few of the reviewer's reactions to this stimulating work are recorded here.

It does a medical psychologist good occasionally to leave the more habitual categories of his field and confront elementary biological problems like aging and death, the antitheses of life and growth. One is astonished by the discovery that there is no scientifically demonstrable certainty of the inevitability of aging and death. What we are accustomed to accept as axiomatic is no more than a high probability.

Here is a glimpse into the biologist's investigation of these basic phenomena. H. S. Jennings in his stimulating essay, Senescence and Death in Protozoa and Invertebrates, discusses the aging of protozoa. He states it as a generally accepted natural law that full active living leads inevitably to exhaustion and decline; yet some stocks of Paramecium Aurelia are 'visibly rescued from death and restored to high vitality by the intervention of sexual reproduction—the union of individuals by conjugation'. Virtual immortality is thus achieved by some stocks.

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