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Julian Huxley’s Reproductive Futures

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Julian Huxley’s Reproductive Futures

Alison Bashford, Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, Fellow of Jesus College

If the futures of assisted reproductive technologies are being created now, our own present was created by past generations. This is both strange and sobering, given how swiftly ideas, technologies, needs and desires change. Retrospects as well as prospects are important. In this lecture I consider the reproductive futures envisioned by one of the twentieth-century’s most intriguing polymath-biologists, Julian Huxley. Author of Evolution: the Modern Synthesis, inventor of the term ‘transhumanism’, first Director-General of UNESCO , Huxley synthesised and communicated the work of the great geneticists, molecular biologists and reproductive physiologists of the day. Many of them (Crick, Pincus, Lederberg, Muller) met at a conference in 1963, “Man and his Future”. This lecture focuses on this meeting, one that opened with Huxley’s visions for the “biological future of mankind”. In 1963, the future hinged on assisted reproductive technologies as a solution, but not on infertility as a problem.

Alison Bashford is Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. Most recently, she is author of Global Population: History, Geopolitics and Life on Earth (Columbia, 2014) and co-author, with Joyce E. Chaplin, of The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: Re-reading the Principle of Population (Princeton, 2016).

This talk is part of the Department of Sociology Seminar Series series.

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