Every now and then the papers contain the account of someone who is 130, or 140, or 150 years old.
Those biologists who have studied the question most carefully are inclined to doubt any such figures. They believe that there are no authentic records of people who have lived much over 100 years, 110 being the outside limit.
Dr. Raymond Pearl, whose valuable book, “The Ancestry of the Long Lived,” has recently been published, has investigated many individuals who claim to have lived over 110 years, but never has found a single one in which the fact can be proved.
One of the most famous was Thomas Parr, the tercentenary of whose death was celebrated in 1935. He died in 1635, and he claimed to have been born in 1483, which would make him 152 years old. This claim rested entirely upon his own assertion, and it was believed largely because it was engraved on his tomb in Westminster Abbey.
Investigation shows, however, that while he claimed to have been born at Winnington in the parish of Alderbury, no entry of his birth in the diocesan records was found when they were examined by W. J. Thomes. It is easy to see that if a man claims to have been born 152 years ago there will be nobody living who can dispute him. All he has to say to the skeptic is, “Vas you dere, Charlie?”
Only about four people in 1,000 births reach the age of 95. Seventy-eight out of 100 born do not reach the age of 80.
The only factor which we have found that constantly operates in promoting longevity is ancestry. According to “The Ancestry of the Long Lived,” if you take the total immediate ancestral longevity, which means the sum of the completed ages of the six immediate ancestors (called Tial), you find that with people of 90 or 100 years, the mean and immediate Tials are over 60 years.
We have one family on record in which the father was 96 and the mother 95 years old. The mother’s parents were 80 and 85, the father’s parents were 66 and 31, but the parents of the individual who was 31 at the time of death were 83 and 88 respectively. The children from this ancestry are living at the ages of 73, 67, 66, 63 and 60, and will probably continue to be living for a great many years yet to come.