Stellar Moments of Humanity, Part III: Humanzee

Remember the nightmarish human-like Beast Folk, created from animals via vivisection, in The Island of Doctor Moreau?  Herbert G. Wells wrote this science fiction novel in 1896 as “an exercise in youthful blasphemy”. It seems that his youthful curiosity about varius Beast Folk persisted at least until 1934. That year, on his third visit to the Soviet Union and his second meeting with Ivan Pavlov, H. G. Wells asked about the late Professor Ilya Ivanov, particularly his secret experiments on apes… and got uncomfortable silence for an answer.

Professor Ilya Ivanovich  Ivanov

Professor Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov (1870 – 1932)

Who was Professor Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov and what H. G. Wells was hoping to hear about his experiments?

As his image suggests, I. I. Ivanov was your proverbial crazy scientist, possessed and obsessed by the idea to change the world. An eminent biologist, he had perfected the technique of artificially inseminating mares, and also produced cross-breeds between various different species. Ideas of eugenics were very popular in Europe at the turn of the 20th century, and the Soviets were out to prove once and for all that Darwinism had superseded religion.

In 1926, Ivanov decided that the most compelling way to do this would be to breed a humanzee: a human-chimpanzee hybrid.

The financing was provided by the Soviet Russia and Prof. Ivanov’s contacts and earlier collaboration with the Pasteur Institute in Paris made it possible to set up experiments at the botanical gardens in Conakry, French Guinea. Ivanov set off for a French research station in West Africa.

Interesting that I.I. Ivanov was well acquainted with Dr. Voronoff of the Stellar Moments of Humanity, Part II: Monkey Nuts. They even collaborated in performing a few famous monkey nut-graft surgeries together. Profit driven Dr. Voronoff, who became multi-millionaire sawing ape glands into the genitalia of super-rich, declined Ivanov’s invitation to participate in his project. All give and take, Ivanov was driven by the idea…

To catch a suitable chimp, as it happened, wasn’t an easy task. Obviously, Ivanov and his crew lacked imagination of the 95 year old Grandpa of Bertram Gayton’s The Gland Stealers.

Armed with clubs, rifles and bows, Conakry warriors tracked down the family of chimpanzees and drove it to the tree, scaring them with loud noises. A bonfire was built around the tree. Suffocating in the smoke, terrified monkeys jumped down, injuring themselves in the fire or under the batons of the catchers. Many died, some managed to escape, and a few were caught. Usually those that got caught were adolescent chimps. Their parents were either killed or let go, for adult enraged chimps are very dangerous.

Such barbaric methods could not be tolerated for long. Professor Ivanov arranged a delivery of specialized nets from Paris. Hunters were promised 1,000 francs for each humanly caught chimp.   But no reward could get Africans to go against the monkeys with such unreliable “weapon” as nets. The native hunters still preferred to catch monkeys with their bare hands, hunting in large groups.  The results were mostly disastrous, now for the pursuers. Several hunters were killed and seriously injured by the monkeys fighting back.

Thus far, three female chimpanzees  were  inseminated with human sperm. It is said that none of Professor’s own sperm was used in his experiments. Although he was a 100% Darwinist, Ivanov, nonetheless, shared the prevalent belief that Africans were related to apes a bit more closely than he was.

The following slideshow, unfortunately of an inferior quality, has number of screenshots from the Russian video Люди-обезьяны. Секретные опыты доктора Иванова (People-apes. Secret experiments of Dr. Ivanov).  In spite of its sometimes biased and politically slanted narrative, it contains some unique documentary footage and serious “talking-heads”, historians of medicine, Russian as well as French.

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Professor Ivanov’sscientific ambitions went further yet. He resolved to try inseminating human female with the chimpanzee sperm. Both the money and the chimps were needed. He turned to a Cuban heiress, Rosalia Abreu.
Signora Abreu was the first person to breed chimps in captivity and had a large menagerie outside Havana. Ivanov asked if any of her male chimpanzees might be available to inseminate a Russian volunteer known to posterity only as ‘G.”

At first Abreu was agreeable. But Ivanov made the mistake of approaching Charles Smith of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism for fund-raising support. Smith was something of a showman – he liked to appear in public with a chimpanzee dressed in a business suit – and went to the newspapers with Ivanov’s proposal. The New York Times thundered, “Soviet Backs Plan to Test Evolution.”

The resulting publicity brought the case to the attention of the Ku Klux Klan, which threatened Abreu with retaliation if she took part in Ivanov’s experiment, calling it “abominable to the creator.” Abreu withdrew her consent. (From Kissing Cousins by Clive D. L. Wynne )

Yet another scandal broke when a notoriously nosy French journalist started snooping around the Conakry lab and came up with the sensational report.

Unable to change human nature through Communist indoctrination, Soviet leaders are trying to create New Soviet human species – race of ape-people, 2 meter high, fast growing, impervious to hardship and hard work…

HumanzeeSensationalist and far-fetched as it was, the scandal had its immediate effect: Professor Ivanov was recalled from West Africa. He departed Conakry with three female chimpanzees, artificially inseminated with human sperm, two monkeys who have not yet reached puberty, as well as several males. The experiments supposed to be continued back home, in Sukhumi’s Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy, the first primate testing center in the world, created in 1927 especially for the purpose of Prof. Ivanov’s experiments.

Scientists at the institute today admit that these experiments did go on at the institute, though they deny it was part of any overarching plan for the creation of a new race.

“Professor Ivanov started these experiments in Africa and continued them here in Sukhumi,” says Vladimir Barkaya, who started at the institute in 1961 and is now scientific director. “He took sperm from human males and injected it into female chimpanzees, although nothing came of it.”

Professor Barkaya vehemently denies monkey sperm was used on human females, although he admits that letters were apparently received by the institution by people of both sexes offering to participate in the experiments.


11 comments on “Stellar Moments of Humanity, Part III: Humanzee

    • I agree. God knows, on the scale of awfulness, this probably leans toward “disgusting” and “unethical”. Interesting that as recently as last June –and I quote — NIH (National Institute of Health) announced that it will retire about 310 government-owned chimpanzees from research over the next few years, and keep only 50 others essentially on retainer – available if needed for crucial medical studies that could be performed no other way.
      Torture and experimentation on people, on the other hand, although outlawed in most places and internationally, is still going on. Somebody should have taken away someones’s beakers somewhere, no doubt about it.

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