Extreme longevity tracking is the tracing and recording of claims of exceptionally long human lives (longevity), as a branch of demography. Persons have been noted for tracking 'supercentenarians' (those aged 110+) for hundreds of years; some included quite famous persons noted in other fields. What was once a hobby in the Middle Ages became a more scientific endeavor in the 1870's with William Thoms. Alexander Graham Bell dabbled in the field, among his many other pursuits. While long a back-burner field, noted names such as "Young and Bowerman" in the 1930's continued. The advent of the Guinness Book of World Records brought the tradition worldwide recognition. By the 1960's, some governments began tracking 'centenarians' as well as the 'oldest person' in the country (for example, Japan started in 1963; the UK in 1966). Today, many European nations, from Germany]] to the Netherlands, track 'supercentenarians'. However, even some Western nations have lagged: major efforts in the USA only started in the last decade, and other federalized states such as France have not yet instituted such recordkeeping. Due to this, there remains room for 'unofficial' experts.
While supercentenarian tracking, like birdwatching, may seem esoteric to some, recently society has recognized its use, in particular since the advent of pension payments (beginning in Germany around 1870 and now near-universal). Early trackers, however, focused either on myth-making or myth-busting; the goal was often to find out why some people lived so long and find the 'secret to long life.' Later, scientific inquiry found that in most cases, extreme ages, especially 115+, were all false. Only in recent decades has a population of persons 110+ emerged as a consistent reality (the first validated 110-year-old was in 1898, but as recently as the 1960's the 'oldest person' was as young as 109).
William Thoms -1870s
Thomas Emley Young -1890s
Alexander Graham Bell -1910s
Walter Bowermann -1930s
Lowell K. Bridwell -1950s
Guinness World Records begins 1955
A. Ross Eckler, Jr. -1970s
Louis Epstein 1990s
GRG begins tracking supercentenarians, 1998
Robert Young joins GRG, 1999
Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research - 1st Supercentenarian Conference 2000
Supercentenarian research since 2010
Researchers and groups in the field include the Gerontology Research Group (founded by L. Stephen Coles in 1990), the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (founded by James Vaupel in 1996), the Supercentenarian Research Foundation (founded by Stan Primmer in 2004), Louis Epstein, Robert Young and Filipe Prista Lucas. Resources include the International Database on Longevity (founded by Jean-Marie Robine in 2005).
The following persons are recognized sources of data on supercentenarians at the national level:
- Filipe Prista Lucas (Portugal)
- Giovanni Alunni (Italy)
- Laurent Toussaint (France)
- Miguel Quesada (Spain)
- Thomas Breining (Germany)
- Andrew Holmes (United Kingdom)
- Waclaw Jan Kroczek (Poland)
- A. Ross Eckler, Jr. (with Guinness World Records 1950's to 1970's)