Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. Born in 1912 in the third generation of a long-life selective breeding experiment run by the Ira Howard Foundation, Lazarus (whose birth name is Woodrow Wilson Smith) turns out to be unusually long-lived, living well over two thousand years with the aid of occasional rejuvenation treatments.
His exact (natural) life span is never determined. In his introduction at the beginning of Methuselah's Children he guesses his age to be 213 years old. Approximately 75 years pass during the course of the novel, which ends with the first form of rejuvenation being developed. However, because large amounts of this time are spent traveling interstellar distances at speeds approaching that of light, the 75-year measurement is an expression of the time elapsed in his absence rather than how much time passed from his perspective. At one point, he estimates his natural life span to be around 250 years, but this figure is not expressed with certainty. Heinlein acknowledged that such a long life span should not be expected as a result of a mere three generations of selective breeding, but offers no alternative explanation except for letting a character declare, "A mutation, of course—which simply says that we don't know".
In one scene in Methuselah's Children, Long says that he visited Hugo Pinero, the scientist in Heinlein's first published story ("Life-Line"). Pinero possessed a machine that was capable of measuring how long a human would live. When Pinero measures Long, he does not provide an answer; he simply advises Long that the machine is broken. The story does not explicitly state whether Pinero's reading was simply so high as to defy belief, Lazarus' later travels in time made a reading impossible, or the reading indicates that Long will never die, though Lazarus seems to believe the last explanation. He is actually told, at the end of Time Enough for Love, that he cannot die and, even though it is possible the statement was simply made in an effort to comfort him, it can be viewed as a legitimate claim because he and his family had, by that time, mastered time travel, allowing any death to be prevented by intervention.
The promotional copy on the back of Time Enough for Love, the second book featuring the character of Lazarus Long, states that Lazarus was "so in love with time that he became his own ancestor," but this never happens in any of the published books and is almost certainly a misunderstanding on the part of the copywriter (such back copy is rarely written by the author of the work it appears on). In the book, Lazarus does at one point travel back in time and have sex with his mother, but this affair happens after the birth of Lazarus. Heinlein did, however, use a similar plot in the short story "All You Zombies—" in which a character does become his own ancestor.
A rugged individualist with a distrust of authority, Lazarus drifts from colony world to colony world, settling down for a few years or a few decades and leaving when things get too regimented for his taste—often just before the angry mob arrives.
The Lazarus Long set of books involve time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, consensual incest, and a concept that Heinlein named World as Myth —the theory that universes are created by the act of imagining them (also called Pantheistic Multiperson Solipsism), such that somewhere the Land of Oz is real.
Novels featuring Lazarus include:
Methuselah's Children (1941)
Time Enough for Love (1973)
The Number of the Beast (1980)
To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)
A book containing sayings of the character Lazarus Long (largely taken from Time Enough for Love) was separately published shortly after Time.
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