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Roy Walford

Roy Lee Walford, M. D. (June 29, 1924 San Diego, California – April 27, 2004) was a pioneer in the field of life extension. He died at age 79 of respiratory failure as a complication of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He was a leading advocate of calorie restriction as a method of life extension and health improvement.


Career highlights

Dr. Walford is credited with significantly furthering research on the discovery that laboratory mice, when fed a diet that restricted their caloric intake by 50% yet maintained nutritional requirements, could more than double their expected life span.

He received his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1948. He completed his internship at Gorgas Memorial Hospital, Panama, and served his residency at the V.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles. He then served two years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

Dr. Walford joined the faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1954. He became a Professor of Pathology at the UCLA School of Medicine in 1966. He became Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emeritus, for UCLA, when he left to join the crew of Biosphere 2 in 1991.

While at UCLA, Dr. Walford served in the following roles:

  • Director of the Blood Bank and of the Hematology Division of the Clinical Laboratories (1959-1980)
  • Director of the School of Medical Technology (1962-1972)
  • Chairman of the Vivarium Committee (1965-1968)

In addition to his service at UCLA, he was an expert advisor in immunology for the World Health Organization from 1969 to 1984, was a senatorial delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 1981, and a member of the National Institute on Aging.

His honors and awards include:

  • Levine Award of the American Society of Clinical Pathology
  • Research Award of the American Aging Association
  • Kleemeier Award from the Gerontological Society of America
  • Henderson Award from the American Geriatrics Society
  • The Senator Alan Cranston Award
  • Infinity Award of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine
  • Asteroid #4629 was named after him by its discoverer (E. Helene) in 1986

Dr. Walford and his work were featured in print in dozens of articles in popular publications such as Omni, Discover, and Scientific American. During his life he also made dozens of featured appearances on various television shows.

Biosphere 2

Dr. Walford was one of the eight “crew members” who were sealed inside Biosphere 2 where they lived from September 26, 1991 - September 26, 1993. Dr. Walford served as the crew's physician. During his stay in Biosphere 2, the crew found that they could not grow as much food as anticipated, so Dr. Walford convinced the crew to follow his calorie restriction diet. It is claimed that this action “produced dramatic weight loss and improved health.”[1] Ironically however, caloric restriction may have accelerated the course of ALS for Dr. Walford, as mice genetically engineered to develop ALS experience faster disease course and shorter lifespan when placed on a calorically restricted diet.[citation needed]

Published works

Walford authored several books, and set out his dietary beliefs in the bestseller Beyond the 120-Year Diet. In addition, he published at least 340 scientific papers, mainly focused on the biology of aging.

Dr. Walford authored or co-authored the following books:[2]

  • Walford, R. L. (1960). Leukocyte Antigens and Antibodies. New York: Grune and Stratton, Inc.. 
  • Walford, R. L. (1969), " ", Series Haematologica 2 (Munksgaard) 2: 1–96
  • Walford, R. L. (1969). The Immunological Theory of Aging. Copenhagen: Munksgaard. 
  • Walford, R. L. (1983). Maximum Life Span. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.. ISBN 0-380-65524-1. 
  • Walford, R. L. (1986). The 120-Year Diet. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-64904-3. 
  • Weindruch, R. H. and Walford, R. L. (1988). The Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction. New York: Charles C. Thomas. 
  • Walford, R. L. and Walford, Lisa J. (1994). The Anti-Aging Plan. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1-569-24383-2. 
  • Walford, R. L. (2000). Beyond The 120-Year Diet. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN 1-568-58157-2. 

Personal trivia

In 1949, while on vacation either from or after medical school (sources disagree), Walford and Albert Hibbs, a mathematics graduate student, used statistical analysis of biased roulette wheels to "break the bank" in Reno. They tracked the results of the spins, determined which wheels were biased, and then bet heavily on the ones which were unbalanced. The casinos eventually realized that Walford and his friend knew what they were doing and threw them out. A Life Magazine photographer captured the pair drinking milk and counting their chips in a photograph published in the December 7, 1949 issue. Their methods were also mentioned in the roulette book The Eudaemonic Pie by Thomas Bass. Different sources have the pair winning anywhere from $6,500 (Life Magazine) to $42,000 (an obituary by the Gerontology Research Group); the high end is more likely, as Walford was reputed to have paid for part of his medical school education and a house from his winnings. The pair also bought a yacht and sailed the Caribbean for over a year.

At UCLA, Walford was known for his quirks, notably his secretary, a statuesque blonde transvestite.

He was also mentioned in Let Them Eat Flax, a collection of essays on chemistry, written by Dr. Joe Schwarcz.

See also


  1. ^ Life Extension Magazine, October 2004, retrieved September 28, 2005
  2. ^ Dr. Roy Walford: Gerontologist, Artist, Biospheran biography web page
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Roy_Walford". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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