A Paul Stonehill Article: “Half Human, Half Ape”
By Paul Stonehill
FATE Magazine - April 2005
A “chimera”—originally the fabulous Greek mythological creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail—has come to mean any hybrid of two or more creatures.
Chimpanzees are believed by many scientists to be the closest relatives of humans. The genetic difference between the two species is estimated to be about 1.7 percent at the DNA level (less than that between horses and zebras). Recent progress in studies of DNA sequences, the fossil record, and brain functions support the idea that there is a sizeable gap separating chimpanzees and monkeys, but not chimpanzees and humans.
Many years ago, according to the recently declassified Soviet documents, a famous scientist tried to close the gap between Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes.
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov was born in 1870. In 1898, he established several zoological laboratories in Moscow, where he studied the reproductive processes of farm animals. In 1901, he established the world’s first center for artificially impregnated horses. Before and after the Bolshevik revolution, Ivanov applied his practical technique to other domesticated species. Several million cattle and sheep were artificially inseminated by the mid-1930s; the Soviets needed strong animals for their monumental transformation of the economy. Ivanov also tried to preserve some endangered species using artificial insemination.
In 1927, the Russian émigré newspaper Russkoye Vremya published articles concerning shocking experiments in which Ivanov allegedly tried to artificially inseminate human and ape females with the other species’ sperm. Few people, however, believed these reports. Many in the West at the time were supporting the “progressive” Soviet Republic.
Proof came after the fall of the Soviet Union, according to Alexander Potapov, who published his research in Na Grani nevozhmozhnogo newspaper (issue 335/4, 2004). A document was discovered in the state archives of the Russian Federation reporting the findings of a special commission created in 1929 to evaluate Ivanov’s proposed anthropoid interspecies hybridization experiments. These experiments were considered to be of “great scientific importance,” and the report indicated that they were to be continued in the Sukhumi Monkey Colony, a Soviet primate center.
The hybridization experiments (the artificial insemination of human females by anthropoid sperm) were to be conducted only with the written agreement of the female. She would accept the risk and obey the required strict isolation regime. The experiments were to be conducted with all necessary safeguards, including preclusion of natural insemination. The trials were to be conducted on as many human females as possible, but in no case, fewer than five.
Why would the luminaries of Soviet science laud Ivanov’s uncanny research? According to Potapov, the Bolshevik elite wanted to destroy the belief in God, and subject nature to serve the new Soviet Man. As a former Soviet citizen myself, I can affirm that neither general ethical concerns nor Judeo-Christian beliefs would be of any interest to Soviet Marxists. Stalin, whose bloody star was rising in the crimson world of Soviet politics, would get hybrid slaves who would be completely obedient. The GULAG and its network of concentration camps would not be a necessity for the hybrids.
Ivanov and the Socialist Motherland were interested in another result of crossbreeding, referred to as hybrid vigor, or heterosis. Heterosis levels tend to be higher as a result of crossbreeding, meaning that the vigor of the hybrids is greater than that of the parental lines.
I am sure that Stalin and his henchmen would have found another use for the chimeric anthropoids designed by Ivanov. Today we call it biological warfare.
Ivanov decided that an expedition to Africa would help him achieve the necessary results. He put in a request, and received an approval from the Soviet government. He also was given a financial support in the amount of $291,912, a huge amount of money for the impoverished Socialist state.
Ivanov believed that he would have no problems inseminating African women with chimpanzee sperm. But he was wrong. Local women refused to crossbreed with apes. The Russian scientist would not give up, and made an agreement with physicians in a local hospital to conduct the intramural hybridization experiments. The governor of the province did not object to the experiments on the condition that the patients would agree to it. But the women of Guinea categorically refused to be any part of the lurid experiments of the Soviet scientist.
Ivanov was arrested on December 13, 1930, and sentenced to a concentration camp for five years. The OGPU (the forerunner of the KGB) commuted his sentence to a five-year exile in Kazakhstan, and finally, Ivanov was released from prison in 1932. He died just a few months later, on March 20. But our story does not end here.
In 1974, Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans and Soviet scientist Boris F. Porchnev published a fascinating book entitled L’homme de Néanderthal est toujours vivant. This book contains the account of a Russian doctor who escaped from the Soviet concentration camps, and in 1952 or 1953 met a trusted friend of Heuvelmans. The doctor claimed that he was arrested because he refused to obey the orders from his superiors. He was to conduct artificial insemination of Oriental women by the sperm of male gorillas. The experiments were conducted in the medical department of the Soviet forced labor camps. The doctor claimed that a race of apemen was created. They were extremely strong and covered with fur, worked tirelessly in the salt mines, and grew larger than the humans—but they could not reproduce.
Did the Soviets create an apeman in their secret labs, a creature that later escaped to be mistaken in Russia and Eurasia for a “snowman,” or a relict hominoid?
People’s Republic of China
The noted British novelist, screenwriter and director Stephen Gallagher revealed an interesting bit of information during an address given at the Wellcome Institute’s symposium on the topic “Do Artists Demonize the New Genetics?” on March 23, 1995.
Gallagher had heard of a doctor in Shenyang, in northeast China, who claimed to have achieved success with the artificial insemination of human sperm to a female chimpanzee, only to have the three-month-old fetus destroyed by Red Guards who came in and smashed up his laboratory.
Scientists in China have created embryonic chimeras, hybrid embryos that contain human and rabbit DNA. On September 7, 2001, a report in Beijing Youth Daily stated that Professor Chen Xigu in the Experimental Animal Center of Sun Yat-sen University had transferred a skin cell nucleus from a seven-year-old boy into a rabbit’s denucleated egg and created an embryo. The aim of his research, according to the paper, was to use cloning to develop cures for such illnesses as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Apparently, with the growing numbers of scientists and medical centers engaged in similar experiments in China (such as the Shanghai Second Medical University), there is also a growing debate over the ethics of cross-species reprogramming.
A very interesting article, headlined “New breed of half-ape ‘slave’ thought possible,” was published in the May 14, 1987, issue of the Houston Chronicle. Brunetto Chiarelli, dean of anthropology at Florence University, claimed that he had knowledge of a secret experiment in which a chimpanzee egg was exposed to human sperm with the result that an apparently viable embryo was created. The experiment was interrupted at the embryo stage because of ethical considerations. “Scientific information is numerous but reserved. Maybe at the end of the year we will have an idea of what has been achieved,” Chiarelli said. Apparently, the cell proceeded to divide; it was the beginning of a routine developmental process that could potentially have resulted in a human-chimpanzee hybrid.
Another fascinating document from the declassified Soviet archives confirms that noted endocrinologist Sergey Voronov conducted experiments on great apes in the 1920s. Voronov lived in a special facility in Grimaldi, Italy, a center he established known as “The Simian Castle.” This animal preserve could contain 100 animals at a time. Voronov was searching for a formula to enable him to slow down the process of aging. He also conducted experiments to increase male virility and researched organ transplantation. Voronov published a book about sexual cell transplantation from apes to humans.
Ventimiglia is a small Italian town on the Ligurian Sea and the Italian Riviera, near the French border. In nearby Grimaldi are grottoes in which prehistoric remains have been found. Strange creatures were sighted in this area in the 1990s, resembling the crossbreed of a primitive man and a gorilla. They were naked and stood two meters tall, with long hair, human-looking heads, large hypnotic eyes, and wrinkled skin.
Did Voronov create chimeric creatures whose descendants wander in the wilderness around the Italian Riviera? There is little available information about the enigmatic Russian surgeon. Did he know of Ivanov and his research? Italian sources state that the Russian scientist tried to “graft bodies of animals on human ones.”
According to an article in the October 27, 2003, issue of U.S. News and World Report (“Mixing species—and crossing a line?”), U.S. scientists have placed human neural stem cells into the brains of fetal monkeys to see how well these cells formed brain tissue. The cells thrived and migrated through the brain. The experiment drew little notice at the time. Nell Royce, the author of the article, wrote that today the experiment would spark more debate.
Scientists in Advanced Cell Technology, an American biotechnology company in Massachusetts, had previously (1998) mixed human cells and cow eggs in an attempt, similar to the Chinese experiments described above, to make hybrid embryos as a source of stem cells. The genes activated and the egg began to divide in the normal way up to the 32-cell stage at which it was destroyed. According to a number of American newspapers, those experiments were not successful.
Nowadays the use of genetic engineering raises a number of concerns. By far, the greatest public concern is over the mixing of human and animal genes. After all, both cell fusion and recombinant DNA techniques allow species barriers to be readily overcome.
Human beings are changing the world at an ever-increasing pace. New crops appear almost every day. It is certain that we will be using genetic manipulation to change life forms themselves in the coming decades. Of course, we should be more alarmed about manipulation of animals than of vegetation and microorganisms.
There is a threshold of cross-species research that must never be stepped over, lest we walk into a minefield. We must not create situations where humans make life or death decisions without reference to God. We must be cautious not to create interspecies chimeras that would be able to replace or destroy Homo sapiens.
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