On August 1, 1870, Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov was born in Shchigry, a town in Kursk Oblast, Russia. His father was the treasurer of the Kursk Province of central Russia, and aside from obvious fact that he was a rich little Russian boy, there’s not much more to say about his youth. He studied in Kharkov University, graduating in 1896. Following his graduation in 1896, Ivanov traveled to Paris at his own expense (rich) and took further courses in bacteriology (nerd). When Ivanov returned to Russia in 1898, he started his first series of experiments on the physiology of reproduction while working in the laboratory of the biochemist and bacteriologist Marcell Nencki at the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine (IEM) in St. Petersburg. His early resume included work as a researcher in the Askania-Nova natural reserve, and would later include the State Experimental Veterinary Institute, and the Moscow Higher Zootechnic Institute (1928–1930). There’s another entry between those two, but I don’t want to spoil all the fun right off the bat.
At the turn of the century, when Ivanov was entering his hunky, hunky 30s, he refined and perfected the artificial insemination of horses. With Ivanov’s developments, one stallion could be used to impregnate 500 mares. Five. Hundred. Although artificial insemination had been used occasionally for experimental purposes, it had not become an established technique by the early twentieth century. The boring method of baby-making was kind of a last resort for farmers throughout the late 19th century. Ivanov, however, was here to change that.
Naturally, with this god-like achievement under his belt, Ivanov kind of had the keys to the city as far as science was concerned. Flash forward to 1910, to the World Congress of Zoologists meeting in Graz, Austria.
Ivanov had something on his mind, and idea that had been kickin’ around for a little while. After all, this guy perfected horse pregnancy– it’s only a matter of time before you’re digging around for that next little slice of perfection. So, to an audience of zoologists who had traveled across the farthest reaches of europe, Ivanov finally dropped his next nugget of genius: a feature length presentation about human-ape hybrids.
“Fellow zoologists, please, contain your excitement!”
To circumvent any issues of ethics, Ivanov said, the procedure could be done through artificial insemination. As if that was the first or only problem with this disgusting concept. This isn’t the first time someone slapped the idea into human history. One cambridge study attributes the earliest recorded mentionings of human-ape hybrids to George-Louis Leclerc, a scientific novelist who apparently wrote about all kinds of bullshit. That was as early as 1766, but long before then the subject was a feature in the tales of many traveler’s, who I assume were trying to start their own Midnight Society for spooky stories.
“The Tale of the… Wait, what? That’s fucking gross, Tyler. God damn.”
The topic had also been entertained by one Carl Linnaeus, otherwise known as the dude that made up scientific animal names. Well, more accurately, he kicked off binomial nomenclature. Homo sapien? Canis lupis? Felis catus? Linnaeus built that system of naming. Anyway, turns out he had the spare time to write up the term “homo troglodytes”– a scientific name for the hypothetical cross-breed between humans and orangutans.
So Ivanov wasn’t the first to think about the gross, gross concept of monkey people. He was, however, going to be the first to try it. At least, scientifically. I think.
Ivanov wasn’t going at this all willy nilly, mind you. Between his sweeping changes to horse sex and the conference in 1910, he and his laboratories had devoted themselves to a number of hybrid experiments that produced some of the first hybrids of their kind, including numerous bird and animal species, like the first mix of horse and zebra. Why? I don’t know– it’s for science. The mule you could argue was to make a practical, stronger animal. When you start mixing sparrows and ravens I think you’re either bored or inappropriately turned on by it.
Flash forward to 1924. Ivanov had gained the legal and financial support of the Bolsheviks. Russia has not always been a “come as you’d like” country, and even leaving the country required special permissions. He was, however, given the go-ahead to take a voyage to Africa, where he would conduct experiments in a wildlife refuge for apes.
Ivanov’s experiments had been built up over the years prior, and they were hardly a “government secret” as some websites will paint them out to be. They were controversial, sure, and while newspapers were running sensational pieces to get the public all jazzed up for monkey people, the scientific community was really, really not onboard with Ivanov’s juvenile obsessions. Where he lacked his colleague’s approval, though, he had the government’s. In November, 1926, Ivanov set off to the botanical gardens of Conakry, French Guinea, with his son and several vials of human semen.
Now you might be reading this and thinking “weird, I don’t think I remember that episode of Planet Earth where David Attenborough hung out with human-ape freaks.” Well, when Ivanov first arrived, he was confused to find that the botanical gardens of Conakry, French Guinea, didn’t have any chimps mature enough for breeding. So, not wanting to cross any lines, Ivanov respected the age of consent and went home to think it over. A little less than a year later, Ivanov came back and nabbed some older chimps to bring home.
When the insemination of female chimps with human sperm yielded no results, Ivanov was dejected, to be sure. Understandably, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought home my ape brood-slaves and tried to knock them up with human fluids, only to waste my time and money in the end. Ivanov, however, isn’t like you and I. He doesn’t give up so quickly. Thinking outside the bun, Ivanov then tried to artificially inseminate human women with chimpanzee sperm.
The issue here (one of many, actually) is figuring out who the unholy hell would agree to that. Ivanov’s first plan was to just not tell the women, and to trick them into the procedure under the pretense of another phoney medical procedure, but his ethics committee didn’t really like that one. So, with what I’m assuming had to be the best advertising campaign imaginable, Ivanov managed to get five informed volunteers to take up interest in the project. He was blindsided by another complication, though, when almost all of his chimps died in the move to one of his labs. In the end, Ivanov was left with Tarzan: a 26 year old orangutan. Five women were lined up to carry Tarzan’s demon children for the sake of science, and then Tarzan had a brain hemorrhage.
It was while Ivanov was trying to garner another set of apes, now nearly five years into his research, that he was arrested by the secret police in 1930. Ivanov was one of many scientists who were gathered up in a widespread purge , which just disappoints me. If anything, I was hoping he was the sole arrest in a widespread purge against monkey perverts.
“You’re under a very specific arrest.”
Ivanov survived his ordeal with the Russian government, but was forced into exile. His exile sentenced him to Kazakhstan for five years, but he wouldn’t serve it fully. On March 20, 1932, Ivanov died of a stroke. Ivan Pavlov, a revered psychologist known for his theories on operant and classical conditioning, wrote an obituary for him.
The concept of human and monkey hybrids lives beyond Ivanov’s experiments, and the subject has hardly been put to rest. In 1971, Geoffrey Bourne, director of the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta and one of the founding fathers of the federal program of primate research, wrote a very passionate paper on the subject of human and ape hybrids.
“There seems to be very little physiological reason why artificial insemination could not be used between man and the apes with a possibility that a viable child might be reproduced… And it is surprising that this type of hybridization has not in fact already taken place.”
Geoffrey sounds irrationally upset that this hasn’t happened yet.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498171/ The History of Making Stuff Pregnant
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanzee Wikipedia article on Humanzees