Ivanov, Ilya Ivanovich

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Ivanov, Ilya Ivanovich

(b. Shigry, Kursk guberniya, Russia, 1 August 1870; d. Alma-Ata, Kazakh S.S.R., 20 March 1932)


Ivanov’s father, a clerk in the district treasury, came from the lower middle class; his mother, from a minor landowning family. After graduating from the Sumskaya Gymnasium (Ukraine) in 1890, Ivanov studied at the biology faculties of the University of Moscow and, later, the University of Kharkov. After graduation he worked in the biochemistry and microbiology laboratories of the universities of St. Petersburg and Geneva, and in 1897-1898 he completed a course of theoretical and practical study at the Pasteur Institute, Paris.

Ivanov was distinguished by good health, abundant energy, exceptional single-mindedness, and persistence in overcoming difficulties. He was active in the work of the Petersburg Society of Natural Scientists and Physicians and, after the October Revolution, in various scientific societies.

From his student years Ivanov manifested an interest in problems of reproductive biology, interspecies hybridization, and the artificial insemination of domestic animals, which had been little studied at that time. In 1899 he published a detailed historical essay, “Isku8sstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushchikh” (“Artificial Impregnation of Mammals”), which was incorporated into his monograph of the same title (1906). Using the data of Spallanzani, Jakobi, Remy, Coste, and Vrassky and the results of experiments by dog breeders, horse breeders, veterinarians, and medical doctors, he believed that “the artificial impregnation of domestic mammals is not only possible but also must become one of the powerful forces of progress in the practice of livestock breeding” (“Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushuhikh”[1903], p. 456).

Ivanov stressed that the method was widespread in fish breeding at the end of the nineteenth century, owing to the application of the “Russian methods” for the artificial insemination of fish roe described by Vrassky, while in livestock breeding it was not used at all. In fact, there was a negative attitude toward it, many people believing that, in mammals, exclusion of the sex act and human interference in the complex physiological process of reproduction would destroy the full biological value of the off- spring and the health of the animals used for artificial insemination. “As long as the question of the viability and strength of the offspring obtained from artificial impregnation remained unresolved,” wrote Ivanov, “this method had no right to wide application”(“Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie domashnikh zhivotnykh” [1910], p. 8). It was also necessary to develop a method, suitable in practice and safe for the animal, which would permit insemination of a significant number of females with the semen of one sire, for “only with such a technical setup does artificial impregnation acquire its significance and can it count on widespread practical application” (“Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushchikh” [1906], p.411). For this reason Ivanov, in 1898, formulated a program of extensive research on the biology of mammalian reproduction and on the formulation of the theoretical and technical problems involved in artificial insemination of domestic animals, subsequently publishing it in an article (1903) and monographs (1906, 1907, 1910).

On his return to Russia in 1898, Ivanov set about the realization of this program in the special zoological laboratory of the Academy of Sciences, directed by A. O. Kovalevsky; in the physiology laboratory, directed by Pavlov; and in the biochemistry laboratory, directed by M. V. Nentsky, of the Institute of Experimental Medicine. In 1901 he founded the world’s first center for the artificial insemination of horses (Dolgoe village, Orlovskaya guberniya); in 1908, the physiology section of the veterinary laboratory of the ministry of internal affairs (St. Petersburg); and in 1910, a zootechnical station (at Askania-Nova, the estate of F. E. Falzfein in Taurida guberniya). In these establishments he investigated the peculiarities of the sexual physiology of male and female domestic mammals, the biology of their sexual cells, and especially the role of secretions of accessory sexual glands during impregnations.

The results of these studies led Ivanov to conclude that the sole necessary condition for the impregnation of domestic mammals and poultry is the possibility for the meeting and union of spermatozoon and egg; the sex act, with its complex processes of the engorgement and hardening of the sexual apparatus, and even the natural liquid medium of the semen, are not absolutely necessary. They can be replaced by the artificial introduction of semen—or even spermatozoa in an artificial medium—into the female’s sexual organs. His second fundamental conclusion was that spermatozoa could retain not only their motility but also their capability for causing conception for a certain period of time outside the organism if the conditions in which they were kept were favorable.

Starting from these prerequisites, Ivanov developed a method for the artificial insemination of domestic mammals and poultry by spermatozoa in their natural medium, intended for the use of pure-strain breeders on farms, and a method of insemination by spermatozoa in an artificial medium, to use the testicles of castrated or killed pure-strain stock or of wild animals. The results of testing these methods under laboratory and farm conditions demonstrated the practical suitability of the techniques, their great effectiveness, and their safety for the breed animals used. The full biological value of the offspring was established by prolonged observations of their growth, development, and quality. Ivanov therefore proposed that the method of artificial insemination be employed in livestock raising, with the goals of more effective use of pure-strain stock and interspecies hybridization of domestic mammals and poultry with wild varieties. He organized the production of special equipment for centers involved in the artificial insemination of mares; wrote a practical textbook (1910) and technical instructions; and, in the courses he created, prepared veterinarians for the practical realization of artificial insemination, which permitted the artificial insemination of around 8,000 mares from 1980 to 1917 on Russian farms.

Ivanov’s results become more widely used after the October Revolution, when he became director of the section of animal reproductive biology of the State Institute of Experimental Veterinary Medicine and the Artificial Insemination Bureau of the All-union State Organization of Beef Sovkhozes (Skotovod), and Sheep-Raising Sovkhozes (Ovtsevod), as well as consultant to the National Commissariat of Agriculture. At the same time he taught a course on the reproductive biology of farm animals at the Moscow and Alma-Ata zootechnical institutes. Through research carried out at the Skotovod and Ovtsevod sovkhozes and at other farms, and with the first mass experiments of their kind, Ivanov devised the basic directions for treating problems of the reproductive biology of farm animals (sexual periodicity and ovulation in females, impregnation, sperm formation, and the biology and biochemistry of sex cells) as well as for dealing insemination (methods of obtaining, evaluating, diluting, preserving and disinfecting semen). These methods were later successfully developed by the biological-zootechincal school that he created.

By 1932, over 180,000 mares, 385,000 cows, and 1,615,000 ewes had been artificially inseminated on the Skotovod and Ovtsevod sovkhozes. Artificial insemination has since become fundamental method of reproduction of farm animals in the Soviet Union.

Ivanov began the practice in livestock raising of interspecies hybridization with wild animals by artificial insemination in order to obtain economically usable hybrids as well as to develop new breeds of animals that can endure more severe conditions and are more resistant to illness. He obtained hybrids of a domestic horse by crossbreeding a zebra and Przhevalsi’s horse, and produced hybrids of cattle with aurochs, bison, yak, and other hybrids. He organized experiments on the mass interspecies hybridization of cattle on the Skotovod sovkhozy. With A. Filipchenko, Ivanov gave a zoological description of interspecies hybrids and determined their economically useful characteristics and the degree of fertility in various generations. Using the program outlined by Ivanov, including interspecies hybridization and artificial insemination with spermatozoa in an artificial medium, his students and followers produced a new fine-haired breed of arkharo-merino sheep which is now widely distributed in the Kazakh and Kirgiz republics.

Ivanov also began work on preserving species of wild animals that are becoming extinct (the aurochs, bison, Przhevalski’s horse). He was one of the organizers of the Sukhumsky Monkey Nursery, which in 1926 conducted the African expedition of the Soviet Academy of Sciences for the interspecies hybridization of monkeys and the delivery of them to the nursery.


Among Ivanov’ writings are “Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushchikh i primenenie ego v skotovodstve i v chastnosti v konevodstve” (“Artificial Impregnation of Mammals and Its Use in Cattle Raising, Especially in Horse Breeding”), in Trudy Sankt- Petersburgskogo obshchestva estestvoispytatelei, 30 , pt. 1 (1899), 341-343; “Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushchikh (predvaritelnoe soobshchenie)” (“Artificial Impregnation of Mammals [Preliminary Report]”), in Russkii trach, 2, no. 12 (1903), 455-457; “Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushchikh” ( “Impregnation of Mammals”), in Arkhiv biologocheskikh nauk, 12 pts. 4-5 (1906), 376-509, also in Archives des sciences bioliogique (St. Petersburg), 12 , nos. 4-5 (1907), 377-511; Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie u mlekopitayushchikh. Eksperimentalnoe issledovanie (“Artificial Impregnation of Mammals. Experimental Investigation”; St. Petersburg 1907); Iskusstvennoe oplodotvorenie domashnikh zhivotnykh (“Artificial Impregnation of Domestic Animals”, St. Petersburg, 1910); Die künstliche Befruchtung der Haustiere (Hannover, 1912); kratky otchet o deyatelnosti Fiziologicheskogo otdelenia Veterinarnoy laboratirii pri Veterinarnom Upravlenii Ministerstva unutrennikh del za 1909-1913 gg. (“Brief Account of the Activities of the Physiological Section of the Veterinary Laboratary Attached to the Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs During the Period 1909-1913”; St. Petersburg, 1913); “The Application of Artificial Insemination in the Breeding of Sliver and Black Foxes”, in Veterinary Journal, 79 , no. 5 (1923), 164-173; and “Iskusstvennoes osemenetie mlekopitayushchikh, kak zootekhnichesky metod” (“Artificial Insemination of Mammals as a Zootechnical Method”) in Trudy Pyatogo Sezda zootekhnikov Moskovskogo zootekhnicheskogo instituta (Moscow, 1929), “Conference plenum”, pp. 57-67. See also Isbrannye Trudy (“Selected Works”, Moscow, 1970).

P. N. Skatkin, Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov—vydayushchysya biolog (“Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov—A Distinguished Biologist”; Moscow, 1964), has a complete bibliography of works by and concerning Ivanov, as well as information on archival sources.

P. N. Skatkin

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