You have heard of a mule, which is the combination of a horse and a donkey. You may have heard of a ligra, which is a lion/tiger mix (Yes, Napoleon, they have been bred in captivity). But have you ever heard of a humanzee? I certainly hope not. Not to say that there hasn't been attempts to create such a....person....beast....thing.

In the beginnings of communism, there was the drive to prove the theory of evolution. Since according to Karl Marx, religion was the opium of the masses, it was communism's job to refute it. One way was to prove man came from apes.

One of the more disturbing experiments of this nature came from Il'ya Ivanov, a Russian scientist. His goal in life, to prove the man/ape theory by breeding them. He first started in 1926 in Africa attempting to inseminate female chimps with human sperm. Not his own sperm, however, because he shared the belief common to the time that the native population was closer to chimps than their more "civilized" fairer skinned bretheren. Those experiment failed. Attempts to get human women to volunteer to be chimp inseminated failed as well.

His next step was to contact a chimp breeder in Cuba and see if any of her male chimps would like to volunteer to inseminate a Russian volunteer. That also fell through.

In the end as with many people, Ivanov fell out of favor with Stalin's regime and was sent to a concentration camp in 1930. He died in 1932 after being released early from the camp to exile in Khazakstan.

All in all, Ivanov wasn't a bad guy. His work in artificial insemination was miles ahead of its time. He pioneered the field, creating the horse/zebra hybrid, saving the European bison, and had much success in farm animal breeding.

Still I am glad that, although you can't pick your relatives, at least you don't have to worry about picking their species.

Written by Josh Harding, posted on 21 December 2005. Josh is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.
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