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"Everything starts as somebody's daydream. And, when you're daydreaming, it is science fiction. It's when you start work out how you put it together, true science fiction becomes real science."
- Larry Niven

Anti-agathic drugs  
  Drugs that indefinitely postpone death from old age.  

"...What we want now is something much more direct: an antitoxin against the ageing toxin of humans. We know that the ageing toxin exists in all complex animals. We know that it's a single, specific substance, quite distinct from the poisons that cause the degenerative diseases. And we know that it can be neutralized. When your lab animals were given ascomycin, they didn't develop a single degenerative disease - but they died anyhow, at about the usual time, as if they'd been set, like a clock, at birth...

"So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug..."

From Cities in Flight, by James Blish.
Published by Avon in 1957
Additional resources -

The anti-agathics were part of what made interstellar space flight possible in the novel; the administrators and essential personnel of the cities received the necessary treatments.

Fans aren't sure what Blish was doing in using the greek root "agathos" in this context, since "agathos" means "good". Here's a roundabout explanation, though. Remember that the characters in the novel are talking about a kind of toxin. It turns out that there is a substance called agathic acid that is found in pine needles. Cows that eat too much of these needles sometimes undergo a spontaneous abortion. Agathic acid is an abortifacient; it terminates life. So an anti-agathic - would preserve life? Anyway, nobody knows what Blish really meant.

If you'd like to learn more about it, see this absurdly detailed article at The Oikofuge.

...So I have to throw my hands in the air and acknowledge that Blish just seems to have plain made up some vaguely Greek-sounding names for his anti-death drugs, and evidently didnt try to keep track of his coinings from one story to the next. But at the time of revision, Blish must have noticed that hed used three different words in four different stories, and presumably he was aware that he had no sensible etymology to defend even his final choice. He seems to have left us a hint to that effect, in a couple of lines of dialogue he added to the ending of They Shall Have Stars when it was first published in 1956. The lines dont appear in either of the original short stories that were combined to make the novel:

[] Do you also know what an anti-agathic is?
No, Helmuth said. I dont even recognize the root of the word.

Compare to young blood - new blood for old from Methuselah's Children (1941) by Robert Heinlein, the Sprung-Samser treatment from This Immortal (1966) by Roger Zelazny, conscious retarded animation from A Race Through Time (1933) by Donald Wandrei and the anti-Tri-D shot from The Morning of the Day They Did It (1950) by E.B. White.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Cities in Flight
  More Ideas and Technology by James Blish
  Tech news articles related to Cities in Flight
  Tech news articles related to works by James Blish

Anti-agathic drugs-related news articles:
  - Biotech Firms Raised $Millions For Anti-Agathics (Longevity Drugs)
  - Google Vs. Death
  - Will The FDA Approve This Antiaging Drug?
  - Altos Labs' Bezos Wants An Anti-Agathic (To Live Forever)

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