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Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.

Martin Luther King pioneered civil rights in America.

Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence.

Peter J. Nygard sells polyester pants.

They all belong to an exclusive group of “great men” who “have challenged the status quo and dared to dream,” according to a 10-minute YouTube video highlighting Mr. Nygard’s belief he’s living proof that human immortality is possible through stem-cell science.

Born in Finland and raised in Manitoba, the 70-year-old founder of the Nygard fashion empire is ranked 85th on a list of richest Canadians compiled by Canadian Business with a net worth of $944-million. But in recent years he has turned his focus away from running the business and toward searching for everlasting life.

While his efforts clearly loom large in his own mind, proponents of stem-cell research says his goals detract from the serious life-saving work many of them perform.

“Immortality is not something we have in our mission statement,” said Kathy Hebert, co-founder of the International Stem Cell Society, a Bahamas-based trade organization that recently made local headlines for...