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Dodging death has long been a dream.

Our earliest recorded legend is that of Gilgamesh, who finds and loses the secret of immortality.

The Greek goddess Eos prevails on Zeus to allow her human lover Tithonus to live eternally, forgetting, unfortunately, to ask that he also not become aged and frail. He winds up such a dried husk she turns him into a grasshopper.

In "It Ain't Necessarily So," Ira Gershwin writes:

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years 

De Grey's looks are almost as striking as his ambitions.

His slightly graying chestnut hair is swept back into a ponytail. His russet beard falls to his belly. His mustache -- as long as a hand -- would have been the envy of Salvador Dali. When he talks about people soon putting a higher premium on health than wealth, he twirls the ends of his mustache back behind his ears, murmuring, "So many women, so much time."

A little over six feet tall and lean -- he weighs 147 pounds, the same as in his teenage years -- de Grey shows up in a denim work shirt open to the sternum, ripped jeans and scuffed sneakers, looking for all the world like a denizen of Silicon Valley.

Not far from the mark. De Grey's original academic field is computer science and artificial intelligence. He has become the darling of some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who think changing the world is all in a day's work. Peter Thiel, the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal -- who sold it in 2002 for $1.5 billion, pocketing $55 million himself -- has dropped $3.5 million on de Grey's Methuselah Foundation.