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34. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

David Seed

Subject Literature

Key-Topics science fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405112185.2005.00036.x


Brave New World (1932) is the single most famous science fiction novel to describe genetic engineering and since the 1980s has become a major point of reference in discussions of cloning and related techniques. As Robert S. Baker (1990) and Krishan Kumar (1987) have shown in their excellent commentaries on the novel, Brave New World engaged with a whole range of social and scientific issues from the 1920s. Its immediate trigger was the publication in 1924 of J.B.S. Haldane's pamphlet Daedalus or, Science and the Future which built on the prophetic optimism found in Wells to evoke a near future where biology has become applied to eugenics so successfully that disease has been eradicated. What Haldane terms “ectogenesis” (the term was coined in 1883 in relation to bacteria and appears in Brave New World , signifying the growth of a fetus in an artificial womb) has become universal by the 1950s and 1960s, but exactly how that universality is achieved Haldane does not say. This technique also has its drawbacks, which Haldane hints at by stating: “The effect on human psychology and social life of the separation of sexual love and reproduction … is by no means wholly satisfactory” ( Haldane 1924 : 65). Huxley probably had Daedalus in mind when he wrote in 1927 that according to Haldane it would soon become possible to “breed babies in bottles” ( Huxley 2000–2 II: 283). This ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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