12/12/2005: From the Files of 'What Haven't They Thought of Before'...
"...The young Soviet Union, in its effort to stamp out religion, was determined to prove that men were descended from apes. In 1926, a Soviet scientist named Ilya Ivanov decided the most compelling way to do this would be to breed a humanzee: a human-chimpanzee hybrid.
Ivanov set off for a French research station in West Africa. There he inseminated three female chimpanzees with human sperm. Not his own, for he shared the colonial-era belief that the local people were more closely related to apes than he was. He stayed long enough to learn that his experiment had failed.
Next Ivanov wrote a Cuban heiress, Rosalia Abreu. 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.
Before Ivanov could find another chimpanzee breeder, he fell out of favor in one of Stalin's purges and was exiled to Kazakhstan in 1931. He died a year later, in March 1932, waiting for a train home to Moscow.
We now know that, though we share much of our genetic code, chimp-human hybrids are probably impossible because the genetic material is arranged quite differently on our chromosomes. But I doubt that will stifle interest in this kind of interspecies romance..."
-- Clive D.L. Wynne: Kissing Cousins (NY Times).
Karen on 12.12.05 @ 06:59 AM CST