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Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2008 Jun;39(2):205-10. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 May 16.

Beyond eugenics: the forgotten scandal of hybridizing humans and apes.

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  • 1Department of Slavonic Studies, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA. ae264@cam.ac.uk

Abstract

This paper examines the available evidence on one of the most radical ideas in the history of eugenics and utopianism. In the mid-1920s, the zoology professor Ilia Ivanov submitted to the Soviet government a project for hybridizing humans and apes by means of artificial insemination. He received substantial financing and organized expeditions to Africa to catch apes for his experiments. His project caused an international sensation. The American Association for the Advancement of Atheism announced its fund-raising campaign to support Ivanov's project but gave it a scandalously racist interpretation. Ivanov's own motivation remained unclear, as did the motivation of those in the Bolshevik government who supported Ivanov until his arrest in 1930. This paper discusses three hypothetical reasons for Ivanov's adventure: first, hybridization between humans and apes, should it be successful, would support the atheist propaganda of the Bolsheviks; second, regardless of the success of hybridization, Ivanov would catch and bring to Russia apes, which were necessary for the rejuvenation programs that were fashionable among the Bolshevik elite; and third, hybridization, should it be successful, would pave the way to the New Socialist Man whose 'construction by scientific means' was the official purpose of the Bolsheviks. Ivanov's ideas were arguably important for the American proponent of reform eugenics, Herman Muller, and for the Soviet anthropologist Boris Porshnev.

PMID:
18534351
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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