Archive for December 18th, 2013

December 18, 2013

The Limits of Individual Plasticity


The Limits of Individual Plasticity‘ is an 1895 essay by science fiction author H.G. Wells offering his theories on the plasticity of animals. He argues that the default biological form of an animal could be altered so radically that it is no longer recognizable and still survive. This could, according to Wells, theoretically be achieved through surgical, or chemical modification. Wells was fully aware that surgical modification is only a physical change, and would not alter an animal’s genetic blueprint. He made note that should an animal be surgically modified, their offspring would most likely retain their parent creature’s original physical form.

These concepts were central to his 1896 science fiction novel, ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau.’ In the book, an Englishman is shipwrecked on a secluded island owned and operated by an eminent British physiologist named Dr. Moreau. Moreau was shunned from the scientific community when his horrific experiments of vivisection were brought to the public spotlight, but continued his work on his private island, where animals are altered with great detail to resemble human beings. They are a defective experiment, as they will revert to their bestial forms after a period of time.