In A Nutshell
Ilya Ivanov was a Russian scientist who rose to prominence in the early 1900s due to his efforts to breed humans with chimpanzees. However, he was unable to get anyone impregnated, much less create a hybrid. (We’ll let you decide if his failure is a good thing or a bad thing.)
The Whole Bushel
Some say that Ilya got his start trying to prove evolution for the good of the Soviet Union. After all, if we could reproduce in conjunction with chimpanzees (and other creatures in the same family), then it would be pretty strong proof we were related. However, as time went on, it became clear that Ilya’s passion for this experiment went well beyond proving the righteousness of the Soviet Union. In fact, Ilya became increasingly obsessed with the idea, to the point that he pursued little else.
At first Ilya traveled the world, trying and failing to find anyone who would agree to let him inseminate their chimpanzees with human sperm. So, finally he decided to do the deed himself and captured 13 chimpanzees to experiment with. He tried artificially inseminating two of them with human sperm, but the experiment failed and they did not become pregnant. The first two chimps has been struggling, so for his next attempt he sedated his subject—still to no avail.
Getting desperate, Ilya appealed to the local governor to see if he could be allowed to attempt inseminating hospital patients with chimpanzee sperm without them knowing—for the sake of science, of course. Poor Ilya was crushed when his latest plan to make a mutant humanzee creature fell apart, but like anyone with a dream he didn’t let that stop him.
He had been running into interference from the general public since his experiment first leaked to the press. It turns out that many people who might have otherwise funded his experiment were turned off by the bad publicity it generated.
One rich atheist interested in the project announced his support regardless, but had some strange, racist notions of how the whole thing worked. He claimed that it would be best to breed orangutans with Asian people, gorillas with black people, and chimpanzees with white people.
Ilya once again lobbied to inseminate women with animal sperm, this time using an orangutan named Tarzan. An anonymous woman who felt her life had already fallen apart wrote to Ilya asking to attempt the experiment on her. We will never know how it turned out. Before he could take her up on the offer and make his dream come true, the orangutan kicked the bucket. And then, before Ilya could try again, the Soviet Union decided they had enough of him and sent him into exile. He died not long after. It’s sad for Ilya that he did not see the conclusion of his experiment, but perhaps there are some things we just shouldn’t mess with.