Stories of human-animal hybrids have existed for centuries, from the ancient Greeks, to modern Hollywood cinema, as humans, we have always held a fear and reject the idea of science meddling with genetics in uncomfortable ways. Creating wild stories of half human-half beast monsters, or conspiracy theories of hushed up, top secret laboratories operating on man made mutations, the fundamental fear of the hybrid has persisted. Our mythology, folktales and conspiracies have created fictional accounts which horrify some, and morbidly entertain others, but whilst the story of Stalin’s desire to create a half man, half ape, super warrior army may be entirely fictional, the science behind stories such as these is far from made up.
McNamee, Shane Patrick. (2015) Human-Animal Hybrids and Chimeras: What’s in a Name? European Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 6/1, No. 11.
Rossianov, Kirill. (2002) Beyond Species: Il’ya Ivanov and His Experiments on Cross Breeding Humans with Anthropoid Apes. Science in Context, Vol XV.
Fridman, E. P. & Bowden, D. M. (2009) The Russian Primate Research Center – A Survivor. Laboratory Primate Newsletter, Vol 48, Number 1.
Etkind, Alexander (2008) Beyond Eugenics: The Forgotten Scandal of Hybridizing Humans and Apes. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
Regal, Brian (2009) Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press Inc. CT, USA.
Sykes, Bryan. (2015) The Nature of the Beast: The first genetic evidence on the survival of apemen, yeti, bigfoot and other mysterious creatures into modern times. Coronet, London, UK.
McNulty, Timothy (1981) Chinese Aim To Implant Human Sperm in Chimps. Chicago Tribune, Feb 12 1981. Accessed Online 5 March 2020: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=sbdaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rFgDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6991%2C3347287
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Chimeras: Ilya Ivanov & The Humanzee
Stories of human-animal hybrids have existed for centuries, from the ancient Greeks, to modern Hollywood cinema, as humans, we have always held a fear and reject the idea of science meddling with genetics in uncomfortable ways. Creating wild stories of half human-half beast monsters, or conspiracy theories of hushed up, top secret laboratories operating on man made mutations, the fundamental fear of the hybrid has persisted. Our mythology, folktales and conspiracies have created fictional accounts which horrify some, and morbidly entertain others, but whilst the story of Stalin’s desire to create a half man, half ape, super warrior army may be entirely fictional, the science behind stories such as these is far from made up. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
Hybrids, Chimeras & The Fear of a Monster
Throughout history, monstrous abominations have filled the pages of books on mythology and fiction, from the Chimera of the Greeks, with the head of a lion, tail of a serpent and body of a goat to modern science fiction and horror, with the Island of Dr Moreau, 28 days later and The Fly. Human-animal hybrids can be seen in religious imagery, with the devils goats horns and cloven hooves, whilst the ancient egyptians saw all manner of deities realized in the arts as anthropomorphic animals. The human-animal hybrids are often used to instill fear, the resulting monsters being violent and somehow “less” human. Oftentimes they are slaves to their more bestial half, the results a warning on the decline in moral value. Yet, somewhere down the line, we’ve learnt to draw a line at what is acceptable and not scary, or morally troublesome. Cell tissue and organs are transplanted from animals into humans with little fuss and daily, almost all of us use products that contain sources of animal tissue.
When it comes to human-ape hybrids, the stories burrow further into our modern day folklore and give birth to various conspiracy theories. Stalin’s quest for ape-man super warriors or scientists forced to experiment in the Russian Gulags are numerous, but patently untrue and exist as a cold war throw back more than anything else. As with much folklore however, the roots are based in reality and the long held fear of a hybridised monster that has pervaded throughout popular culture for centuries has not always deterred some scientists from trying.
In the 1760’s, George Louis-Leclerc, a French naturalist and author first wrote of the similarities between humans and apes, forming what would eventually be the precursor to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Whilst he showed little interest in hybridisation himself, he did write of the viability of fertility if such a cross were to happen. With the turn of the 20th Century, attempts to carry out xenotransplants became more and more common, with the first ever kidney transplant put inside a 16 year old with kidney failure in 1905, though the patient sadly died two weeks later. As surgeons practised splicing various organs from pigs, rabbits and primates into other humans, so too did the theoretical possibilities expand. Xenotransplants might have been several steps away from hybridising, but it only took someone to dream big and it wasn’t long before several such people arrived on the scene, proposing exactly that.The Dutch naturalist Hermann Marie Bernelot Moens proposed experiments with hybridisation with a goal to prove evolutionary theory alongside Hermann Rohleder in 1908. His project was backed by the Pasteur Institute in France, right up to the Dutch Royal Court, however, the funding fell short after a brochure was published titled “Truth: Experimental Research Into The Lineage of Man” in order to secure further funding from the public, who upon reading the details of the experiment, turned sour on the idea. Two years later, along came Ilya Ivanov. Ivanov was a Russin scientist who had climbed to international renown with his experiments in Artificial insemination and in 1910, he put his theories forward on the theoretical possibility of hybridising humans and apes. Once again the idea was largely frowned upon by the public and Ivanov was forced to place his project into the background, but Ivanov wasn’t going to let it go so easily. All he needed was the right sort of audience.
Ilya Ivanov & The Birth of an Idea
Ilya Ivanov was born in Shchirgry, Russia in 1870. Growing up in the small town, nestled on the Western border of Russia and the Ukraine with a population of around 12,000, the Ivanov’s were comfortable members of the Russian middle class. His father worked as a clerk in the district treasury and his mother was the daughter of a relatively wealthy, landowning family. In 1890, Ivanov graduated from the Saskaya Gymnasium in Ukraine, going on to study at both the University of Moscow and the University of Kharkov. His post-graduate studies saw him travel further abroad, working in biochemistry and microbiology labs in the University of St Petersburg and Geneva. He was a voracious learner, and active in many societies throughout his education, including becoming a member of the Petersburg society of natural scientists, one of the oldest educational societies in Russia, founded during the imperial era under the direction of Russia’s leading universities. Throughout the 1890’s, Ivanov began to work on the theory behind artificial insemination for agricultural purposes. He spent a year in Paris at the Pasteur Institute in 1897 furthering his work in the field and published a paper two years later titled “Artificial Impregnation of Mammals” within which he argued that artificial insemination of livestock was an essential step in the progress of Russian farming. Although the theory wasn’t wildly new, Russia was already practicing artificial insemination within its fish farms, the public were still wary of this method of producing animals and Ivanovs theories drew some initial friction. Surprisingly, it wasn’t moral concerns which incited the controversy against Ivanovs paper, but rather, the popular belief at the time that animals resulting from artificial insemination would be somehow of lesser quality than those born naturally. Ivanov argued strongly against this and pointed to the Russian fish stocks as evidence that the animals could, if anything, only be improved.
Ultimately, it was undeniable that the harsh environments of rural Russia made keeping livestock difficult and so, in 1901, Ivanov founded the world’s first center built for a program to artificially inseminate horses under the umbrella of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Over the following years, Ivanov not only entirely solved the shortage of horses within Russia, expanding the project to a national scale, but began dabbling in selective breeding and hybridisation in order to solve problems in the animals specific to Russia, creating animals that were hardier in the cold environments and more resistant to illness and disease as well as purportedly hybridising a horse and a zebra, along with mixing up yaks, bison and aurochs. It was groundbreaking work that drew the interest of breeders and scientists the world over. This work had elevated Ivanov within the international scientific community, but his ambitions didn’t stop with horses. In 1910, he presented his theories of hybridising humans and apes via the means of artificial insemination to the International Zoological Congress in Graz. Whilst it may have seemed like the next logical step for Ivanov, it was a bold departure from his work with horses and he quickly found that his new theories didn’t go over quite so well with all members of the scientific community. For the time being at least, he was forced to bench his project until he could find a more receptive audience if he was to gain any level of financial backing. Whilst the theories themselves were reasonably in step with the evolutionary theories of the day and were generally framed comfortably within the racist, sexist, colonial ideas that prevailed at the time, dabbling with human hybridisation had proven to be just a small step too far.
In the meantime, Ivanov went on to work as the director of the Animal Reproductive Biology Faculty at the State Institute of Experimental Veterinary Medicine. It was a full 14 years before he found the possibility of a second chance to present his theory, this time to the recently established Bolshevik government of Russia. Seizing on the strategic anti-religious aims of the government, he presented his application for state funding for the project, heavily emphasising the religious implications of a successful venture. The debates over whether or not the project should be backed plodded on for over a year throughout all levels of government. The top official intellectuals broadly found Ivanovs proposals agreeable, whilst his fellow scientists remained more sceptical. Fortunately for Ivanov, among his supporters were people very high up the chain. Nikolai Gorbunov, the Kremlin’s Chief of Staff throughout the 1920s and close friend of Lenin and Trotsky being just one. Finally, in September 1925, the Bolshevik government, motivated upon futurist ideals, agreed to sponsor the project and secured Ivanov funds to the tune of $10,000, which he was to use for his initial expeditions to Africa to secure a source of Apes and carry out his initial experiments. Together with his son, a Browning pistol and a somewhat rare permit to travel abroad, Ivanov boarded a ship bound for French Guinea where he would finally carry out his grand plans.
One of the stumbling blocks and a major factor in stalling the project for Ivanov was the relative rarity of captive apes available for use in scientific endeavours. The apes were difficult to catch, rarely survived for very long in captivity in their homelands and fared even worse once sent abroad. This ultimately led to anyone wishing to work with primates having to either pay the exorbitant prices on the open market, or funding an expedition into the unknown lands of tropical rainforests, complete with malaria and abundant, dangerous wildlife, making it a difficult prospect for all but the most adventurous explorers.
When his ship landed in Conakry, on the outskirts of Camayenne, on the West Coast of Africa and part of French Guinea, Ivanovs first port of call was the already established Botanical Gardens owned by the Pasteur Institute, with whom he’d already secured a working relationship and the permission to set up his laboratory within the facility. From the get go, however, he encountered new problems which sought to derail the program. The institute was in something of a sorry state and Ivanov quickly found that over half of the apes caught there to be later transferred to the pasteur Institute in Paris would die long before their departure date. The locals, suspicious of his ties with paris, were unwelcoming and worse, he found that many held deep cultural beliefs that prejudiced many of the local people against working alongside the apes. One such belief was that the apes were prone to raping local women, who then found themselves outcast by their communities. For Ivanov, this story proved to bolster his resolve that humans and apes were close enough to hybridise, however it did present a problem. His initial plans were to inseminate local women with the sperm of Apes, paying the women off for their troubles in a fantastic display of the colonial attitudes of the early 20th Century. He had not anticipated the strong social implications that would find the women ostracised, rendering volunteers impossible to find, however. For the time being, he pressed on, organising expeditions into Fouta-Djallon, a vast highland region of Guinea, dotted with deep green, tree-filled canyons and craters. It would have been a challenging environment for the Russian scientist, but it proved fruitful and saw the team returning with 13 Chimpanzees.
With the likelihood of volunteers teetering between slim and none, Ivanov was forced to change tact. Rather than inseminate the local women, he would instead procure human sperm and inseminate female chimps. This, he decided, would be better done without the locals knowledge and so, before dawn under the cover of darkness, he snuck into the laboratory to carry out the first experiment. Using two apes, numbered 2 and 3 and named Babette and Syvette, Ivanov artificially inseminated the subjects with sperm that he only noted as not donated by him, nor his son. The experiment promptly failed, when a month later, the chimps showed no signs of pregnancy and so, Ivanov tried once more. Once again, the sperm donor was kept anonymous, though Ivanov wrote that it was “freshly collected from a man of 30 years old”. Whilst the donor was a bachelor, “according to his claims, there have already been conceptions from him.” The ape used was numbered 25 and named “Black” and just like before, Black remained assuredly un-pregnant.
Dejected, Ivanov switched gears once more, this time proposing to inseminate local women without their consent or knowledge under the guise of a medical exam. Fortunately, the local French governor disallowed it, with what Ivanov called “Bourgeois prejudices.” He turned to Moscow, writing home for backup, but the reply from Moscow was the same and they disallowed the practice also. Ivanov had been in Africa for six months, utilised 3 apes and a considerable sum of money and his attempts had only ended in failure. He still felt a conviction that human subjects being inseminated would be the cheaper, more practical option to carry the project forward and so, he returned to Russia, placing the failures of Africa behind him and planned his next steps.
Back to Mother Russia
Once back in Russia, Ivanov found that his research and experimentation had not passed the world by quietly. In 1926, the American and British press had both picked up on his theories, publishing sensationalist, religious framed pieces. In America, Evolution had been a hot button topic for several years, as debates on whether or not evolutionary theory was acceptable to be taught in schools flared within the press. Just a year prior, in 1925, the state of Tennessee had passed a law that made it a crime to teach “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible.” The preceding trial had been one of the first modern media trials in America, which the press dubbed as “the Monkey Trial”.
Prime amongst the evolution argument was the American Association for Advancement of Atheism, an anti-religious association that had previously worked with Ivanov in order to help fund his African expedition, speaking to the New York Times in 1926, they spoke openly about their funding of the project, albeit inexplicably filtering the entire thing through a heavily racist lens,
“Soviet Backs Plan To Test Evolution – Experiments to Be Carried Out at Pasteur Institute in Kindia, Africa. Lawyer for the American Atheistic Society Tells of Project and Will Go to Observe It.
“Charles Smith, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, said yesterday that experiments fostered by that association by the Soviet Government and by scientists and other individuals, had been started at the Pasteur Institute of Kindia, French West Africa, with the object of accomplishing the artificial hybridization of the human and anthropoid species, to support the doctrine of evolution, by establishing close kinship between man and the higher apes.”
“Mr Smith asserted that news of the arrangements for this experiment had been brought to this country by Howell S. England, a Detroit lawyer, who had represented the association on the lecture platform. “The late professor Klaatsch, Dr F G Cruikshank and others have proposed such experiments,” said Mr Smith. “The Soviet government has actually made a grant of $10,000 toward the proposed experiment. A total of $100,000 may be necessary to carry on the study of such experiments over a period of years. Some word of these experiments has come to this country already, as they have been attacked in two or three religious publications as revolting. The prejudice against the experiments, however, is entertained by those who do not know anything about modern methods of artificial fecundation.””
“Free use of the laboratories and grounds has been extended to us, but it will require a fund of $100,000 to carry out the work. The Russian government having borne the initial cost, several prominent American patrons of science have become interested, and the foundation will doubtless be named for the principal donor. Within a short time, as support is forthcoming, I shall leave for Kindia to assist in conducting the experiments.”
Back in Moscow, Ivanov had been securing further funding from the government. Upon his return, Ivanov had arranged for the transportation of 20 chimpanzees to Russia, however, the trip was traumatic, and by the time they arrived, only four had survived. Ivanov founded a primatological nursery under the newly created Institute of Experimental Endocrinology. Already deciding that he would use primate sperm and artificially inseminate human women, he set about finding five volunteers who would be willing to take part in the experiments. It was decided that no money should exchange hands between the institute and the volunteers and that they must be willing to donate their bodies to science for the sake of progress. Unbelievably, Ivanov found one volunteer, named only “G”, who wrote to him to apply,
“Dear professor, With my private life in ruins, I don’t see any sense in future existence, but when I think that I could do a service for science , I feel enough courage to contact you. I beg you, don’t refuse me.”
Ivanovs larger problems were the apes, which kept dying. Left with only one, a 26 year old Orangutan named Tarzan. New apes were ordered, however, in 1930, before they were delivered, Ilya Ivanov was arrested in a widespread purge of scientists by the Russian government under the guise of “Supporting the international Bourgeoisie”. He was exiled to Kazakhstan, where he worked as a zoologist until his death, which came just two years later, after he succumbed to a stroke.
Ivanovs Primate institute did continue on without him, though with new goals in mind, developing medicines for both tetanus and diphtheria. By the 1960’s it was an internationally renowned institution, with over 2,000 apes, many of which were turned into space apes during the Russian Sputnik space program. As for Ivanov, he was posthumously cleared of all charges in 1959 and remembered for his achievements in artificial insemination and the great leaps he made with horses early on in his career, whilst his work attempting to hybridise apes with humans fell quietly by the wayside.
With so many stories surrounding Ivanov, it’s become easy to imagine a Doctor Frankenstein figure, toiling away in the small hours in a dimly lit laboratory in order to create a monstrous, half man half ape hybrid in an isolated, snow covered Russian laboratory. In fact, Ivanov only visited the Russian Primate Center once, in 1928. He stayed at the facility for three days during an inspection, at the time of which there was not a single great ape specimen housed at the centre. Apes were notoriously difficult to keep alive in the early days of the primatological institutes founding, with a life expectancy of 1 year and were incredibly difficult to obtain when trying to build an initial stock. The single female volunteer, known as “G” never visited the centre and the government put a stop to any further experiments when they arrested Ivanov and he found himself promptly exiled. Whilst his earlier realised and planned experiments in Africa certainly lived up to the dark stories that circulate today, hIs latter involvement back in Russia is considerably overblown.
One of the overriding questions regarding Ivanovs project is just why would a government, whose tight controls on the movement of people both into and out of the country, allow Ivanov to travel to French Guinea to participate in a project that would be both controversial and incredibly costly, at a time when money was in short supply and whilst seeking international respect and diplomatic recognition?
Why Did the Soviets Back Ivanov?
In 2005, The Scotsman published an article entitled “Stalin’s Half-Man, Half-Ape Super-Warriors” using Ivanovs research as a basis for a fantastical plot, wherein Stalin schemed to produce an army of ape-human hybrids, a super soldier that would be used as a pawn in his overarching plan to take over the world. This all, of course, came out in top secret documents “recently discovered”. This entirely fictional account has been touted around by over-enthusiastic, self published authors, cable channel tv shows and creationist ministers the world over ever since, gaining a place in mainstream folklore, but did it have any basis in reality at all? After all, the Soviets backed Ivanov for a reason. The truth is, of course, a little more complicated, but not really any less bizarre.
We can quickly write off some of the lesser points from the Scotmans article. Details such as the oft-repeated notion that the Soviet documents “unearthed”, were “top secret.” Ivanovs research was not particularly secret during its day and was written about in the international press, so that clears that up. As to the whys and wherefores, however, things get a little more murky and span several prongs.
Throughout the early 20th Century, Russia had been a remarkably complicated place in regards to its politics. Undoubtedly, one of the most important moments in regards to Ivanov and his hybridisation project was the October Revolution of 1917, which saw Trotsky and Lenin’s Bolshevik party storm the Winter Palace and take over the country, founding Soviet Russia under the banner “All Power to the Soviets”.
One of the main theories suggests that after the revolution, Ivanov found invigorated support for his theories within the new Bolshevik government, whose ideologies loosely aligned with the ramifications of Invanov’s proposals to hybridise humans with apes. During this time, Trotsky and Lenin were busy waging a war against religion. Openly hostile towards religion and officially atheist, Lenin once famously stated in a letter written in 1913, “all religion is a necrophilia.” and claiming that “there can be nothing more abominable than religion.” This anti-religion of the Bolsheviks was essentially a bastardisation of a Marxist philosophy that morphed into the Trotsky-Leninist concept, vilifying organised religion as a bourgeois construct to exploit the working class. After they took power, the Bolshevik rulers heavily persecuted organised religion, founding societies such as “The Militant Godless”, who disseminated anti-religious propaganda throughout the Soviet Union. It was this propaganda war that Ivanovs work was expected to benefit the most and if you follow the theory, was one of the central reasons the Bolsheviks backed the project at all. If Ivanov could artificially inseminate an ape and create a hybridised offspring, it would help to prove evolutionary theory, that man evolved from ape and would land a decisive blow upon religion, bolstering the materialism and atheism the government were heavily pushing. This might seem like a pretty out there solution, but it also had many other knock on effects, Ivanovs science was pioneering and would prove the superiority of Soviet science to the world, whilst also potentially paving the way for another Trotskyite, utopian dream, that man would have a hand in his own evolution, creating the “New Soviet Man”, with insemination and reproduction entirely fractured from the bourgeois constructs of love and family. It was, as far as the theory goes, the next, obvious step, in evolutionary theory.
Whilst these theories aim to understand why the Bolsheviks initially backed Ivanov, they are not supported by all scholars universally. Oleg Shishkin, a Russian journalist developed his own theories, based upon his belief that the aging Bolshevik top brass were interested in a rather bizarre, scientific curiosity from the early 20th Century dubbed “Rejuvenation Therapy” being pioneered in France by Russian born, French naturalised scientist and surgeon Serge Voronoff. If things seemed weird so far, Voronoffs studies take things straight off the deep end.
Voronoff & Rejuvenation Therapy
Born in Russia in 1866, but emigrating to France after his graduation, Serge Voronoff had a pretty unique career. After living and working in Egypt for 14 years between 1896 and 1910 researching the negative effects of castrations on eunuchs, Voronoff returned to France with a whole new set of pioneering theories. In short, his ideas were rooted in his belief that there was a relation between hormonal activity and the effects of aging. This was a radical concept at the time, but perhaps even more radical was where Voronoff took his theories.
In 1913, Voronoff became the first surgeon to utilise xenotransplantation using primate organs when he grafted the thyroid gland of a chimpanzee into a 13 year old boy and then watched his progress over the period of 14 months. By the end of the study, he noted that the boy had gained in almost every physical area, growing in weight, height and colour as well as intelligence.
A few years later, he began grafting primate testicles into the scrotums of human males in order to “rejuvenate” them in numerous ways. In his book, published in 1925, titled “ Rehuvination by grafting”, he states that this grafting surgery could improve ones sex drive, induce better memory, provide extra energy, allowing the recipient to work longer hours, improving the muscles around the eye, negating the need to wear glasses and working as a benefit to sufferers of schizophrenia. During his initial research and practical experiments, Voronoff had grafted the testicles of younger animals onto older animals in order to regenerate their natural vigor. After performing over five hundred of these transplants on various animals, including bulls, goats and sheep, he set his sights higher and considered the possibility that he could do the same in humans if he grafted the testicles taken from monkeys. His first successful graft was performed in 1920, when he transplanted thin slices of testis into the scrotum of a human. Unbelievably, this practice became a fashionable procedure known as “Rejuvenation therapy.”, though it was far better received in France than it was Britain, where long-running debates on animal rights had already outlawed such surgeries decades prior. Regardless, the elite from around the world, including Britain, visited Voronoff to undergo the surgery with the hopes of regaining their youth. The demand for the procedure was so high, that Voronoff had his own Primate nursery built in Italy to supply him with fresh testicles.
Perhaps realising that he was only making money from half of the population, Voronoff moved on to experimenting with the ovaries of apes in women, grafting them into humans in efforts to delay the menopause.In 1924, he operated on a 48 year old woman from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who had been left by her husband. Reportedly, she desired to go under Voronoffs knife in order to regain her youth and with it, her husband’s lost affection. The operation, apparently was a roaring success, so much so that the woman moved on from her husband, saying that he was not worth her new youthful, beauty.
It was around this time that his work intersected with that of Ilya Ivanov.Whilst Ivanov was in France securing the use of the Pasteur institutes African facilities, he teamed up with Voronoff who had transplanted human ovaries into a female ape named “Nora”, and the pair attempted to artificially inseminate her using human sperm. The experiment was an eventual failure, despite initial reports that the pregnancy had been “progressing normally”.
Eventually, as science continued to progress and a better understanding of testosterone and its role in aging and virility became the subject of deeper study, voronoffs work became slowly sidelined and eventually ridiculed, first by the scientific community, closely followed by public opinion. As early as 1929, the press had begun calling out Voronoffs claims and likening his practices to “old sorcererors” from “the dark ages”,
“It seems strange that whenever critics raise their voices against these modern magicians, they answer: But it is for the good of humanity. But science and sentiment do not always go hand in hand. The realm of experimental surgery is a fascinating one; it is, however, also dangerous. The experimenter is apt to forget his humanity in his zeal. It is no imaginary menace.”
“My Operation – says Dr Voronoff – confers upon the subject of it a vigorous life that lasts until a deferred old age, which comes speedily and ends with a painless death.” Long life, prolonged youth, painless death, there are boons all humanity would crave. Can they be had in exchange for a big fee and a Voronoff operation and magic of the age of the philosophers stone?”
By the time of his death in 1951, his work had completely fallen out of favour and his work all but ridiculed. His reputation would not recover until the 1990’s, when much of his work was revisited and certain sections were in fact seen to be potentially beneficial, though perhaps not quite the miracle elixir that Vornoff had claimed in his prime.
Whilst Ivanov and Voronoff never did succeed in creating a human-ape hybrid, there have been numerous claims since of top-secret projects, covered up and lost in time, that purportedly did succeed. One such project which, it is claimed, took place in the 1920’s, and would have been operating in parallel with Ivanovs research, only in this case, it was not the soviets, but American scientists in Florida who were creating the chimeras.
Gallup Jr, Ji Yongxiang & Other Rumours
Whilst we have documented evidence for both Ivanoff and Voronoffs research and work in the area of creating human-ape hybrids, there have been several claims over the years that are backed with less than stella evidence. In 2018, Gordon G Gallup Jr, psychologist at the University of Albany made extraordinary claims that the world’s first human-ape hybrid was in fact born in 1920, in an institute in Florida. The facility that allegedly carried out the project was the Anthropoid Breeding and Experiment Station, a precursor to the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre. The center is the largest and earliest such facility established in America, originally founded in 1930 by Robert Yerkes, in Orange Park, Florida before relocating in 1965 to its present location on the Emory University campus in Atlanta. The report, given to British tabloid newspaper “The Sun” by Gallup Jr was, as one might expect, rife with errors, such as the claim that the Yerkes institute moved to Atlanta in 1930. Mixing up such basic facts does not bode well for the rest of the story, but nevertheless, it goes on to quote Gallups claims,
“One of the most interesting cases involved an attempt which was made back in the 1920s in what was the first primate research centre established in the US in Orange Park, Florida.
“They inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred but the pregnancy went full term and resulted in a live birth.
“But in the matter of days, or a few weeks, they began to consider the moral and ethical considerations and the infant was euthanized.”
Gallup Jr claimed to have been told the story by his old professor, whom he assured, was “a credible scientist in his own right.” It goes without saying that with so scant details and with a source as devastatingly tragic as “The Sun”, the story leaves much to be desired in terms of hard evidence, but it is curious none the less to consider what motivation a scientist such as Gallup, whose early work on primate self-recognition and self-awareness was groundbreaking in its day, would have to be involved in such a story if it had no shred of evidence in truth.
One other claim that lies in equal evidential obscurity comes from 1967, inside Maoist China. Similarly to Gallups story, this too was reported in the newspapers, though almost 40 years earlier. Originally published in 1980 and syndicated throughout the early months of 1981 with the headline “Chinese Aim to Implant Human Sperm in Chimps”, the story grew out of a press report from Shanghai newspaper ”Wen Aui Bao” that addressed the Chinese authorities current debates on reigniting the long-forgotten human-ape cross breeding program and quoted one of the original researchers from the project, Dr Ji Yongxiang.
“The chimp was three months pregnant before the first experiment was halted, one of the original researchers claims.”
“The creatures could be used for herding sheep and cows and driving carts, he said, and they could be used in exploring space, the bottom of the sea and exploring mines.”
Much like Ivanov, his experiments were brought to an abrupt end during the cultural revolution, when in 1967, the Maoist government smashed up the laboratory and exiled Ji Yongxiang and one other, unnamed doctor he worked with to a farm for ten years. The pregnant chimp, claimed Ji, went on to die through neglect before it was able to carry out it’s full term.
“He also said a “factory” could be set up to provide parts from the “near-human ape.” The doctor also spoke of the possibility of transplanting heads. At the same time of the ape-human experiments, he recalled, researchers in Harbin were trying to transplant the heads of dogs.”
“A transplant from a human to a new creature could be beneficial in that “the intelligence of a man can still be used.” Though there are shades of Frankenstein’s monster in his proposals, Ji claims it should not be offensive now that artificial organs are implanted and “organic organs” theoretically are deemed better. Ji said the idea of a “near human ape” was to serve the needs of mankind. Using human sperm for such an experiment is ethically all right, he said, because it is produced anyway and most of it is wasted.”
Resisting the urge to make jokes in regards to wasting human sperm, it is, nevertheless, an interesting article despite its lack of comparative evidence. Ji also alluded to the idea that there were prior experiments taking place in China long before his time and the Cultural Revolution and when considering the timescale of Ivanovs experiments, it doesn’t seem like a claim that would have put such projects out of step with the science of the time.
After these two claims, stories continue further downhill into rumour and fiction, with claims which quickly disappear down the rabbit holes of cryptozoology, bigfoot and super-human ape warriors. Such as the story of “Zana”, a human-primate, or possible leftover neanderthal hybrid of some kind that lived in a remote Russian village and bred with the local men. Later exhumations and subsequent DNA tests proved that the stories were simply the mischaracterization of a tragic human, mistreated due to physical and mental handicaps.
Whether or not they have any evidence to support them, it’s certainly true that stories of human-ape hybrids still continue unabated. As popular now as they were in greek mythology, Chimeras and hybrids still bring the same fundamental fears and morbid intrigue as they ever did. Curiously, science still marches on and the quest to hybridise humans has never truly stopped, whether it be in the pages of lost history during the founding years of some of the world’s most prominent facilities, buried within secret Chinese laboratories or continued in the openstill today, in the countries that still allow for such experiments. Indeed, in 2017, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, professor of the Gene Expression laboratories of the Salks Institute for Biological studies created the world’s first human-pig hybrid embryo and in 2019, over a century after Ivanovs proposals to the zoological congress in Graz, the first human-monkey hybrid embryo was reportedly created in research that would potentially aid in human organ transplants. As controversial as ever, the embryo was created with failsafes to ensure the embryos would not survive past a certain timeframe, if they could even survive at all. A century on and it seems the realisation of a hybrid human is still mired in the same scientific difficulties and moral quandaries as it ever was and many might suggest it stay there for another century yet.