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Voronoff, Serge

Entry updated 16 January 2021. Tagged: Author.

(1866-1951) Russian-born surgeon and entrepreneur, in France from an early age; his theory that monkey testicles, when transplanted into the testicles of human males, would have a rejuvenating effect and increase longevity (see Rejuvenation), was influential during the 1920s. Voronoff argued his case voluminously, in texts like La Conquête de la Vie (1928: trans G Gibier Rambaud as The Conquest of Life 1928). It is estimated that at least 500 French males underwent the necessary operation; the worldwide figure is much larger. Later, Voronoff advocated the transfer of monkey ovaries into the ovaries of human females, an advocacy treated with disfiguringly racist disfavour in Nora, la guenon devenue femme ["Nora, the Monkey Turned into Woman"] (1929; trans Brian Stableford as Nora, the Ape-Woman 2015) by Félicien Champsaur, in which Nora is a clear portrait of the Black singer Josephine Baker (1906-1975) (see Race in SF).

Any Apes as Human tale written between 1920 or so and the beginning of World War Two is almost certain to reflect Voronoff's influence in some fashion, though there and elsewhere the use of Voronoff's theory has generally been sceptical or Satirical. A late Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" (March 1923 Strand), treats Voronoff-like rejuvenation very negatively; Bertram Gayton's The Gland Stealers (1922) makes it a basis for comedy; Ronald A Knox's "A New Cure for Religion" (April 1924 Blackfriars) describes a gland that when inserted fills the patient with true Religion; Thomas Le Breton's Mr Teedles, the "Gland" Old Man (1927) spoofs the process; in Robert Hichens's Dr Artz (1929), the process is treated in Horror in SF terms; Lord Dunsany's Lord Adrian: A Play in Three Acts (written 1922-1923; 1933 chap) depicts the child of a Voronoffian breeding experiment as a doomed Prometheus who fails to bring fire to the animals of England; Aldous Huxley's After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (November 1939-March 1940 Harper's Magazine as "After Many a Summer"; 1939; vt After Many a Summer 1939) takes colour from the Voronoff ambience; Mikhail Bulgakov's The Heart of a Dog (written circa 1925; 1968) explicitly savages Voronoff's fatuous hubris; the protagonist of Ned Beauman's The Teleportation Accident (2012) impersonates him in a scam. [JC]

Serge Abrahamovitch Voronoff

born Voronezh, Russia: circa 10 July 1866

died Lausanne, Switzerland: 3 September 1951

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