Department of History
University of California, Irvine
 Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker


Lecture 18.  Artificial Man

Timeline:  Artificially Reproducing Natural Life Functions
1677 Anton von Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) observed "animalcules" under a microscope
1694 Homunculus drawn by Nicholas Hartsoeker (1656-1725)
1784 Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) artificially inseminated a dog which gave birth to 3 healthy pups 62 days later.
1785 child born following the first attempts at artificial insemination on a human subject by Scottish surgeon, John Hunter (1728-1793) 
1827 Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) identified the mammalian ovum; like many of his predecessors, he regarded sperm cells as parasites; named them "spermatozoa"
1856 "January 1, A.D. 3000" published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12

excerpts from
"January 1, A.D. 3000"

Selinghuysen's pupils

..."My friend the learned Professor John Pierre Selinghuysen, has invented a plan whereby one portion of the body may be developed to the exclusion of the others.  For instance, you bring him a man who is to be a blacksmith.  He puts him through a course of treatment which forces all his vital energy into his arms and chest: his legs shrivel up, his head becomes a mere appendage, but his arms and chest are those of a Hercules.  Give him a danseuse.  In six months her nether extremities will have acquired the strength of iron with the elasticity of India rubber; true, her arms and bust will have dwindled away, but she doesn't need them.  For her speciality legs are the thing needful; and therein she is unapproachable.  Ah! my good Sir, civilization has made great strides of late years."

I acknowledged the fact, and gloomily thought what sort of a world this would be, if we all followed the speciality system, and each person reduced himself to be the mere bearer of a single organ.

"Of course you are aware," said he, "that though we have not yet succeeded in finding the proportions of albumen and carbon requisite for the manufacture of a perfect man, we have been very successful with detached members and limbs.  It is quite common, nowadays, for a man to have a spare leg or arm at home; and a fellow would be ashamed of wearing the nose nature gave him, if it resembled some of those we see in the old statues."

"Every thing nowadays," continued my guide, "is done in pursuance of a system.  We have constantly the best men in the republic at work in search for the best mode of doing whatever has to be done.  When they discover that best mode, a law is immediately passed to declare it the only mode, and all others are prohibited under heavy penalties.  For instance, in former times the education of children was left to chance and to the caprice of their parents, whence it constantly happened that promising natures were ruined.  Now, step in here.  This is our Educational Establishment.  The day after a child is born he is brought here, and intrusted to the charge of the distributor of infantine nourishment.  This is the Infantine Ward, one of the best in the building."

The infantine ward

We had entered a large room, on either side of which stood cases such as were used in my time in stores for the reception of goods.  Each case was provided with a small mattress and a blanket.  Along the front of the cases ran a tube like a gaspipe, and from it shorter tubes, terminating in funnel-shaped mouth-pieces, stretched into each case.  The deafening sound which assailed my ear when we entered quite prepared me to discover that almost all the cases were inhabited.  A stout man received us with a rough sort of politeness, and in answer to a question from my companion, said that the supply was slack at this season, not over a couple of hundred arrivals per day.  I asked where the mothers were.

"Mothers? ah! I forgot.  I have read of the old-fashioned maternal duties.  They must have been a dreadful bore.  We did away with them long ago.  Children are reared in this establishment from their birth on a substance called supra-lacto-gune.  It is composed of 15 parts of gelatin, 25 of gluten, 20 of sugar, and 40 of water, and is certified by the government chemists to be the very best article of nutrition possible.  What is the average mortality now, Abdallah?"

The stout man said briefly:  "Fifty-seven and a quarter per cent."

"Think of that!" exclaimed my guide triumphantly; "my friend, Doctor Belphegor, assures me that in former times the mortality among babies was never less than eighty and often a hundred per cent."

I said, deferentially, that though the new plan was doubtless far preferable to the old one, the children did not appear to like it, judging from their cries.

"Oh! mere play! mere amusement!  We like babies to cry.  Out of a hundred children who don't cry, we find that exactly eighty-four and three-quarters die under six months; whereas your thorough roarers seldom fail.  At fifteen months the babies are removed from this room and pass their examination before the State Phrenological Commission.  Their heads are thoroughly examined, their mental capacities recorded, and their vocation in life decided.  On leaving the Commissioners' room, each infant has a ticket pasted on its person, bearing the name of the trade or profession to which it is destined.  Those who are to be mechanics go through a course of training to prepare them for their apprenticeship, and are then shipped to the country which is appropriate to the industry of which they are to be acolytes.  Those, on the contrary, whose phrenological development justifies the Commissioners in setting them apart to be lawyers, doctors, clergymen, or men of letters, are sent to the Grand College of Peerless.  This is, we flatter ourselves, the greatest establishment of the kind ever known....

The hot-house academy

"[B]by a recent special act, parents who are ambitious of early distinction for their children are allowed to send them to private academies on the plan of hot-houses.  The youths who are thus reared are placed under cover in a peculiar atmosphere, calculated to hasten the development of the brain.  All that the teacher has to do is to keep the thermometer up to a certain point.  In this way, children have been produced who calculated eclipses before they could speak, and cut out plans of fortifications in clay before cutting their teeth...."

1866 American gynecologist, Marion Sims (1813-1883), performed 55 artificial inseminations on 6 women with cervical abnormalities; one pregnancy occurred



Artificial womb-like protective environment, the couveuse, developed by Etienne Stephane Tarnier for premature babies.

Infant could be accessed through door (P).

Infant could be viewed through movable glass cover (d).

Space (K) filled with sawdust to insulate the cubicle.

Heater (Th) raised water (W) temperature.

Ventilating air (L) was warmed as it flowed around water reservoir before entering infant cubicle.

1884 William Pancoast of Philadelphia performed the first confirmed artificial insemination using donor sperm; while under anesthesia, the wife of one of Pancoast's patients was successfully impregnated before an audience of medical students using semen obtained from "the best-looking member of the class"
1897 British biologist Walter Heape (1855-1929) recovered rabbit embryo after flushing oviduct;  transferred it to foster-mother, in which normal development continued; work encouraged others to look at possibility of culturing embryos in the laboratory

Premature infants in mechanical incubators on display at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska


Incubators and their premature occupants on display at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York


Nurse tending to a premature baby on display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis

1923 J.B.S. Haldane published "DÆDALUS, or Science and the Future"
1932 Aldous Huxley published Brave New World
1948 First successful internal heart surgery performed

First successful sex-change operation

Amniocentesis allowed fetus to be checked for abnormalities 


Open-heart surgery performed with the aid of a heart-lung machine

Structure of DNA described

1954 First kidney transplant performed on an identical twin
1955 Ultrasound introduced in obstetrics

Pacemaker for the heart developed

Oral contraceptive introduced

1962 First artificial hip operation
1963 First liver transplant performed

A whole heart transplanted from one human to another

Coronary bypass operation performed

Mammography introduced


New fertility drugs caused British woman to give birth to sextuplets

Epidural anesthetic technique, to ease pain in childbirth, announced

1969 Single gene isolated for first time
1970 First successful nerve transplant
1971 Fiber-optic endoscope developed for looking inside the human body
1972 CAT (computerised axial tomography) scanning for cross-sectional X-rays of human body

Recombinant DNA technique developed -- start of genetic engineering

First NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) image taken


Insulin 'manufactured' in bacteria from synthetic DNA

First 'test tube' baby born

Louise Brown
born:   25 July 1978

Over 35,000 IVF infants born in 2000

Over 1.5 million IVF infants born since 1978

1981 Embryonic stem cells first isolated in mice
1982 Artificial heart transplanted into a patient -- survived 112 days
1984 Infant given baboon heart transplant -- survived 20 days

First heart, lung, and liver transplant


First successful five-organ transplant

Entire human knee transplanted

1988 RU486 marketed

First surgery on a baby in its mother's womb

Human Genome Project begun

1995 Embryonic stem cells first isolated in primates
1996 First mammal cloned -- Dolly, the sheep
1998 First human embryonic stem cells isolated using tissue from two sources:
   - tissue of aborted fetuses
   - embryos gathered for in vitro fertilization

First self-contained mechanical heart implanted

Limitations placed on funding for stem cell research

Researchers claim to have cloned first human embryo -- results questioned


Death of first cloned mammal

Human Genome Project completed

2004 Hwang Woo Suk announces successful cloning of human embryo for use as non-controversial stem cell source

In May, Hwang announced streamlined cloning procedure

In November, Hwang's discoveries found to have been based on false claims

With a little marketing . . . traditional reproduction may begin to seem antiquated, if not downright irresponsible.  One day, people may view sex as essentially recreational, and conception as something best done in the laboratory.

--Gregory Stock (Redesigning Humans, 2002)

Go to:
  • DAEDALUS, or Science and the Future (1923) by John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964)
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