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April 6, 1917

Economist and social theorist Irving Fisher from Yale University, an early eugenicist, spoke on “Life Extension” under the auspices of the Ellen S. Richards Memorial Fund. In December 1913, Dr. Fisher, along with wealthy businessman Harold Ley, founded the Life Extension Institute, intended to extend healthy human life by the systematic application of modern science. Fisher was the chair of the new philanthropy’s hygiene reference board, and its president was E. E. Rittenhouse, conservation commissioner of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, who resigned that position to lead the new venture. The institute’s aim, President Rittenhouse told The New York Times, was “to bring about a closer relation between as larga a portion of the public as we can reach and the medical advisors and to spread knowledge to promote health and prevent disease…. In the promotion of health and longevity there are two distinct fields. One is treatment. That is filled by the physicians and the institute will in no wise encroach upon it. The other is prophylaxis. This is our field, and we intend to bring to our work in that field the ripened fruits of sicentific discovery and experience for the preservation of health and the prevention of disease.”

Dr. Fisher’s talk was published as the first Ellen S. Richards monograph.

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