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

Lecture 20.  Finding Tomorrow


Human Reproduction
in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Hatchery


  • ovary is excised alive
    • Podsnap's Technique
      • accelerates the rate of egg-ripening
      • one ovary can produce 15,000 adults
  • detached and ripened eggs are kept in fluid
  • eggs inspected for abnormalities and counted
  • eggs transferred to receptacle containing free-swimming spermatozoa
  • after 10 mins, fertilized eggs removed to incubators; unfertilized eggs returned to receptacle for additional exposure to spermatozoa
Alphas and Betas
kept in incubators to mature individually
1 egg  → 1 embryo → 1 individual
Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons
after 36 hrs, undergo Bokanovsky's Process
1 egg  → 8-96 embryos → 8-96 identical individuals

Bokanovsky's Process
"The principle of mass production at last applied to biology."

1.  36 hrs after fertilization, embryos given 8 mins exposure to x-rays

a few die
a few divide in two
most divide in four
some divide in eight
2.  2 days later, embryos are chilled
a few die
a few divide in two
most divide in four
some divide in eight
3.  Embryos exposed to near-lethal dose of alcohol
a few die
a few divide in two
most divide in four
some divide in eight
4.  Embryos finally allowed to develop


  • Organ Room -- preparation of sow abdominal membranes
  • Bottling Room
    • Liners -- containers lined with sow membranes
    • Matriculators -- embryos inserted into containers
    • Labellers -- containers labelled to identify embryos
  • Social Predestination Room -- containers placed on appropriate rack
  • Embryo Store
    • conveyor belt moves 1/3 meter/hr
    • over 267 days gestation, containers move 2,136 meters
    • containers are injected, shaken, tested at specified intervals along the way
  • Decanting Room
Child Development
  • Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning Room
    • Infants conditioned to react positively only to stimuli appropriate to their own status
    • Children conditioned to consume manufactured goods and services
    • Subliminal messages used to teach morals while sleeping
      • sex education
      • class consciousness
Understanding and Improving Natural Human Reproduction

Research problems to resolve:

  • semen collection
  • semen evaluation
  • semen preservation
  • understanding estrus
  • understanding conditions under which embryo can be
    • retrieved
    • nurtured
    • transplanted

Anton von Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) observed human sperm under a microscope (below, left)

1694 Homunculus (above, right) 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"
excerpts from
"January 1, A.D. 3000"
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12 (1856)

..."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

excerpts from

Science and the Future

A paper read to the Heretics, Cambridge, on February 4, 1923
J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964)

...It is a fairly safe prophecy that in 50 years light will cost about a fiftieth of its present price, and there will be no more night in our cities.  The alternation of day and night is a check on the freedom of human activity which must go the way of other spatial and temporal checks.  In the long run I think that all that applied physics can do for us is abolish these checks.  It enables us to possess more, travel more, and communicate more.  I shall not attempt to predict in detail the future developments of transport and communication.  They are only limited by the velocity of light.  We are working towards a condition when any two persons on earth will be able to be completely present to one another in not more than 1/24 of a second.  We shall never reach it, but that is the limit which we shall approach indefinitely.

Developments in this direction are tending to bring mankind more and more together, to render life more and more complex, artificial, and rich in possibilities--to increase indefinitely man's powers for good and evil....

As for the supplies of mechanical power, it is axiomatic that the exhaustion of our coal and oil-fields is a matter of centuries only.  As it has often been assumed that their exhaustion would lead to the collapse of industrial civilization, I may perhaps be pardoned if I give some of the reasons which lead me to doubt this proposition.

Water-power is not, I think, a probable substitute, on account of its small quantity, seasonal fluctuation, and sporadic distribution.  It may perhaps, however, shift the centre of industrial gravity to well-watered mountainous tracts such as the Himalayan foothills, British Columbia, and Armenia.  Ultimately we shall have to tap those intermittent but inexhaustible sources of power, the wind and the sunlight.  The problem is simply one of storing their energy in a form as convenient as coal or petrol.  If a windmill in one's back garden could produce a hundredweight of coal daily (and it can produce its equivalent in energy), our coalmines would be shut down to-morrow.  Even to-morrow a cheap, foolproof, and durable storage battery may be invented, which will enable us to transform the intermittent energy of the wind into continuous electric power.

Personally, I think that four hundred years hence the power question in England may be solved somewhat as follows:  The country will be covered with rows of metallic windmills working electric motors which in their turn supply current at a very high voltage to great electric mains.  At suitable distances, there will be great power stations where during windy weather the surplus power will be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen.  These gasses will be liquefied, and stored in vast vacuum jacketed reservoirs, probably sunk in the ground.  If these reservoirs are sufficiently large, the loss of liquid due to leakage inwards of heat will not be great; thus the proportion evaporating daily from a reservoir 100 yards square by 60 feet deep would not be 1/1000 of that lost from a tank measuring two feet each way.  In times of calm, the gasses will be recombined in explosion motors working dynamos which produce electrical energy once more, or more probably in oxidation cells.  Liquid hydrogen is weight for weight the most efficient known method of storing energy, as it gives about three times as much heat per pound as petrol.  On the other hand it is very light, and bulk for bulk has only one third of the efficiency of petrol.  This will not, however, detract from its use in aeroplanes, where weight is more important than bulk.  These huge reservoirs of liquified gasses will enable wind energy to be stored, so that it can be expended for industry, transportation, heating and lighting, as desired.  The initial costs will be very considerable, but the running expenses less than those of our present system.  Among its more obvious advantages will be the fact that energy will be as cheap in one part of the country as another, so that industry will be greatly decentralized; and that no smoke or ash will be produced....

The chemical or physical inventor is always a Prometheus.  There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.  But if every physical and chemical invention is a blasphemy, every biological invention is a perversion.  There is hardly one which, on first being brought to the notice of an observer from any nation which has not previously heard of their existence, would not appear to him as indecent and unnatural....

...I am going to suggest a few obvious developments which seem probable in the present state of biological science, without assuming any great new generalizations of the type of Darwinism.  I have the very best precedents for introducing a myth at this point, so perhaps I may be excused if I reproduce some extracts from an essay on the influence of biology on history during the 20th century which will (it is hoped) be read by a rather stupid undergraduate member of this university to his supervisor during his first term 150 years hence.

"As early as the first decade of the twentieth century we find a conscious attempt at the application of biology to politics in the so-called eugenic movement.  A number of earnest persons, having discovered the existence of biology, attempted to apply it in its then very crude condition to the production of a race of super-men, and in certain countries managed to carry a good deal of legislation.  They appear to have managed to prevent the transmission of a good deal of syphilis, insanity, and the like, and they certainly succeeded in producing the most violent opposition and hatred amongst the classes whom they somewhat gratuitously regarded as undesirable parents.  (There was even a rebellion in Nebraska).  However, they undoubtably prepared public opinion for what was to come, and so far served a useful purpose.  Far more important was the progress in medicine which practically abolished infectious diseases in those countries which were prepared to tolerate the requisite amount of state interference in private life, and finally, after the [League of Nations'] ordinance of 1958, all over the world; though owing to Hindu opposition, parts of India were still quite unhealthy up to 1980 or so.

But from a wider point of view the most important biological work in the first third of the century was in experimental zoology and botany.  When we consider that in 1912 Morgan had located several Mendelian factors in the nucleus of Drosophila, and modified its sex-ratio, while Marmorek had taught a harmless bacillus to kill guinea-pigs, and finally in 1913 Brachet had grown rabbit embryos in serum for some days, it is remarkable how little the scientific workers of that time, and a fortiori the general public, seem to have foreseen the practical bearing of such results.

As a matter of fact it was not until 1940 that Selkovski invented the purple alga Porphyrococcus fixator which was to have so great an effect on the world's history.  In the 50 years before this date the world's average wheat yield per hectare had been approximately doubled, partly by the application of various chemical manures, but most of all by the results of systematic crossing work with different races; there was however little prospect of further advance on any of these lines. Porphyrococcus is an enormously efficient nitrogen-fixer and will grow in almost any climate where there are water and traces of potash and phosphates in the soil, obtaining its nitrogen from the air.  It has about the effect in four days that a crop of vetches would have had in a year.  It could not, of course, have been produced in the course of nature, as its immediate ancestors would only grow in artificial media and could not have survived outside a laboratory.  Wherever nitrogen was the principal limiting factor to plant growth it doubled the yield of wheat, and quadrupled the value of grass land for grazing purposes.  The enormous fall in food prices and the ruin of purely agricultural states was of course one of the chief causes of the disastrous events of 1943 and 1944.  The food glut was also greatly accentuated when in 1942 the Q strain of Porphyrococcus escaped into the sea and multiplied with enormous rapidity.  Indeed for two months the surface of the tropical Atlantic set to a jelly, with disastrous results to the weather of Europe.  When certain of the plankton organisms developed ferments capable of digesting it the increase of the fish population of the seas was so great as to make fish the universal food that it is now, and to render even England self-supporting in respect of food....

It was of course as a result of its invasion by Porphyrococcus that the sea assumed the intense purple colour which seems so natural to us, but which so distressed the more aesthetically minded of our great grand-parents who witnessed the change.  It is certainly curious to us to read of the sea as having been green or blue....

It was in 1951 that Dupont and Schwarz produced the first ectogenetic child.  As early as 1901 Heape had transferred embryo rabbits from one female to another, in 1925 Haldane had grown embryonic rats in serum for ten days, but had failed to carry the process to its conclusion, and it was not till 1946 that Clark succeeded with the pig, using Kehlmann's solution as medium.  Dupont and Schwarz obtained a fresh ovary from a woman who was the victim of an aeroplane accident, and kept it living in their medium for five years.  They obtained several eggs from it and fertilized them successfully, but the problem of nutrition and support of the embryo was more difficult, and was only solved in the fourth year.  Now that the technique is fully developed, we can take an ovary from a woman, and keep it growing in a suitable fluid for as long as twenty years, producing a fresh ovum each month, of which 90 per cent can be fertilized, and the embryos grown successfully for nine months, and then brought out into the air.  Schwarz never got such good results, but the news of his first success caused an unprecedented sensation throughout the entire world, for the birthrate was already less than the death rate in most civilised countries.  France was the first country to adopt ectogenesis officially, and by 1968 was producing 60,000 children annually by this method....

As we know ectogenesis is now universal, and in this country less than 30 per cent of children are now born of woman.  The effect on human psychology and social life of the separation of sexual love and reproduction which was begun in the 19th century and completed in the 20th is by no means wholly satisfactory.  The old family life had certainly a good deal to commend it, and although nowadays we bring on lactation in women by injection of placentin as a routine, and thus conserve much of what was best in the former instinctive cycle, we must admit that in certain respects our great grandparents had the advantage of us.  On the other hand it is generally admitted that the effects of selection have more than counterbalanced these evils.  The small proportion of men and women who are selected as ancestors for the next generation are so undoubtedly superior to the average that the advance in each generation in any single respect, from the increased output of first-class music to the decreased convictions for theft, is very startling.  Had it not been for ectogenesis there can be little doubt that civilisation would have collapsed within a measurable time owing to the greater fertility of the less desirable members of the population in almost all countries.

It is perhaps fortunate that the process of becoming an ectogenetic mother of the next generation involves an operation which is somewhat unpleasant, though now no longer disfiguring or dangerous, and never physiologically injurious, and is therefore an honour but by no means a pleasure.  Had this not been the case, it is perfectly possible that popular opposition would have proved too strong for the selectionist movement.  As it was the opposition was very fierce, and characteristically enough this country only adopted its present rather stringent standard of selection a generation late than Germany, though it is now perhaps more advanced than any other country in this respect.  The advantages of thorough-going selection, have, however, proved to be enormous.  The question of the ideal sex ratio is still a matter of violent discussion, but the modern reaction towards equality is certainly strong."

Our essayist would then perhaps go on to discuss some far more radical advances made about 1990, but I have only quoted his account of the earlier applications of biology.  The second appears to me to be neither impossible nor improbable, but it has those features which we saw above to be characteristic of biological inventions.  If reproduction is once completely separated from sexual love mankind will be free in an altogether new sense.  At present the national character is changing slowly according to quite unknown laws.  The problem of politics is to find institutions suitable to it.  In the future perhaps it may be possible by selective breeding to change character as quickly as institutions.  I can foresee the election placards of 300 years hence, if such quaint political methods survive, which is perhaps improbable, "Vote for Smith and more musicians", "Vote for O'Leary and more girls", or perhaps finally "Vote for Macpherson and a prehensile tail for your great-grandchildren''.  We can already alter animal species to an enormous extent, and it seems only a question of time before we shall be able to apply the same principles to our own....
1932 Aldous Huxley published Brave New World

Amniocentesis allowed fetus to be checked for abnormalities 

1955 Ultrasound introduced in obstetrics

Oral contraceptive introduced


New fertility drugs caused British woman to give birth to sextuplets


First 'test tube' baby born

Louise Brown
born:   25 July 1978

By 2012, when Louise Brown reached her 34th birthday, over five million IVF infants had been born worldwide.

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
  Schneiderman Distinguished Lecture
  "From Regenerative Medicine to Genetic Design"
  UC Irvine, June 2004

Technology and Progress

"...progress is a comfortable disease..."

--e.e. cummings (1944)

"Change is one thing, progress is another.  'Change is scientific, 'progress' is ethical; change is indubitable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy."

--Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)

"Progress is our most important product"

--General Electric slogan (ca. 1965)

"Them in our crowd I mosly drunk with or chattit to they ben mosly agenst ... all them new idears of moving things frontways like Goodparley ben talking of."

--Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980)
  • What is your view of technological progress?  What does "progress" mean to you?  How should "progress" be achieved?
  • How does your view of progress compare with those expressed above? with those of your contemporaries? with those of your parents' generation?
  • Why is your view of progress best?
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