Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth is a legendary fountain that will render anyone who
drinks of its waters permanently young
Definition by Wikipedia.com
According to tradition, the natives of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba told
the early Spanish explorers that in Bimini (Beniny), a land to the north,
there was a river, spring or fountain where waters had such miraculous
curative powers that any old person who bathed in them would regain his youth.
About the time of Columbus's first voyage, says the legend, an Arawak chief
named Sequene, inspired by the fable of the curative waters, had migrated from
Cuba to southern Florida. It seems that other parties of islanders had made
attempts to find Bimini, which was generally described as being in the region
of the Bahamas.
Juan Ponce de Leon (1460-1521), who had been with Columbus on his second
voyage in 1493 and who had later conquered and become governor of Puerto Rico,
is supposed to have learned of the fable from the Indians. The fable was not
new, and probably Pence de Leon was vaguely cognizant of the fact that such
waters had been mentioned by medieval writers, and that Alexander the Great
had searched for such waters in eastern Asia. A similar legend was known to
the Polynesians, whose tradition located the fountain of perpetual youth in
As described to the Spanish, Bimini not only contained a spring of perpetual
youth but teemed with gold and all sorts of riches. The fact that the party of
Arawaks who had gone in that direction had never returned was taken as
evidence that they must have found the happy land!
In that age of discovery, when new wonders and novelties were disclosed every
year, not only the Spanish explorers but also men of learning accepted such
stories with childlike credulity. Pietro Martire d'Anghiera (1472-1528), an
Italian geographer and historian who moved to Spain in 1487 and who is known
as "Peter Martyr" wrote to Pope Leo X in 1513: "Among the islands of the north
side of Hispaniola, there is about 325 leagues distant, as they say who have
searched the same, in which is a continual spring of running water, of such
marvelous virtue that the water thereof being drunk, perhaps with some diet,
maketh old men young again." The chronicler himself discounted the tale, but
he told his Holiness that "they have so spread this rumor for a truth through
all the court, that not only all the people, but also many of them whom wisdom
or fortune hath divided from the common sort, think it to be true."
Ponce de Leon, who had become wealthy in the colonial service, equipped three
ships at his own expense and set out to find the land of riches and perhaps
the mythical fountain that would restore his health and make him young again.
It is a common, mistake to suppose that he was then an old man. He was only
Ponce de Leon, like most of the other early Spanish explorers and conquerors,
was looking primarily for gold, slaves and other "riches," and it is not
likely that he actually put much stock in the fable of the fountain of youth,
if he had heard about it at all.
That fable was not associated with de Leon's name until long afterwards, when
Hernando de Escaiante de Fontaneda told it in his account of Florida. In 1545
Fontaneda, at the age of thirteen, was shipwrecked on the coast of Florida and
spent seventeen years as a captive of the Indians. He was finally rescued,
probably by the French in northeastern Florida, and later returned to the
peninsula as an interpreter for Menendez in 1565. Antonio de Herrera y
Tordesilias (1540?-1625) had access to Fontaneda's manuscript and incorporated
the story in his history of the Indies.
Whether any Europeans had visited Florida before Ponce de Leon's first
expedition is not known for certain. Some authorities suppose that both John
Cabot and Amerigo Vespucci had explored and mapped part of the coast. At any
rate, Alberto Cantino's Spanish map of 1502 indicated a peninsula
corresponding to Florida.
On March 27, 1513 (not 1512 as often stated), after searching vainly for
Bimini among the Bahamas, Ponce de Leon sighted the North American mainland,
which he took to be an island, and on April 2 he landed somewhere on the
eastern coast. Nobody knows for certain where he first set foot on Florida
soil. Some suppose that it was north of St. Augustine, while others think it
was as far south as Cape Canav- eral. Either because the discovery was made
during the Easter season, or because he found flowers on the coast, or for
both reasons, he named the country La Florida. In Spanish, Easter Sunday is la
pascua florida, literally "the flowery passover." "And thinking that this land
was an island they named it La Florida because they discovered it in the time
of the flowery festival."
of Youth Number One
The fountain in the above painting features a structure called "the telomere
binding complex". This is a complex of several proteins which help to
stabilize the ends of human chromosomes, called telomeres. The water pouring
out of the fountain is like the end of the chromosome, a single strand of DNA
bound to a protein. The grape-like structure is the shape of an actual protein
that has been found to bind to the telomeres of some species. One copy of the
protein is facing up and the other facing down, like the women in the
fountain. This is to reflect the reality of a fountain of youth - its effects
may have positive effects or leave us more vulnerable as a society.
As humans age, eventually their cells stop producing telomerase. This means
that the telomere will then get shorter and shorter every time the cell
divides. Eventually, the cell will no longer divide when the telomere gets too
short. It is believed that if telomerase can be introduced back into the
telomere binding complex, the cell can continue to divide normally. This makes
telomerase, and understanding the telomere binding complex, two of the keys to
an extended life span.