The original 1976 Star Wars script references The Clone Wars (which wouldn't be realised in fiction until decades later):
LEIA: General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire.
(Leia was referring to her adopted father, Bail Organa, and not Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, of course).
According to starwarz.com, which has copies of early drafts of the scripts, the term "clone" was added in the 3rd draft in 1975.
Ben: I know who you are. Stand up so that we can talk properly. You’re embarrassing me. I’m not that important.
Luke: But you are… I know your ‘Diary of the Clone Wars’ by heart. My father…
What struck me was that 1975 predates cloning as we know it today. While 1975 was the same year a mammalian embryo was created via nuclear transfer from another embryo, it isn't the same thing as cloning from an adult, so if this event made headlines I doubt it would have inspired the Star Wars' EU story.
Looking at Google Ngram, the noun "clone" was significantly more popular than "cloning" (the verb, implying a known process for creating clones exists) which goes with the progress made in genetic and reproductive research made since the 1960s.
While I know Lucas was an avid sci-fi follower, I don't believe nor recall me personally coming across any sci-fi literature about clones or cloning written before the 1980s (making Star Wars a standout anyway).
- So assuming that Lucas was not referring to contemporary genetic cloning by nuclear-transfer, what process could "clone" refer to when the script was written?
- Was cloning and the creation of clones prevalent in the sci-fi community at the time?
- What could Lucas' inspiration have been?
- If the alternate to embryonic cloning is to imagining a cloning-machine like a vat which pops out a fully-grown person (replete with memories and personality from the original) then did other contemporary and prior works also refer to that as "cloning" and the product as "clones" or did they have a different word for it?
- While "Doppleganger" comes close - it doesn't have the same sci-fi connotation as "clone" does. I think today it's used more as a synoynm for lookalike rather than identical-copy. It also doesn't imply the doppleganger has the same mind, memories or personality.
- "Cauldron born" is a much, much older term - which could be used to describe how a massed army of orcs or demons was raised, but it's necessarily a magical or fantasy term than sci-fi.
- Terms like Battletech's "Iron womb" are on-point, but postdate Star Wars by over a decade.
I think my real question is: "in 1975, was the term 'clone' well-understood by the general public?" or "in 1975, what would the general public of the developed western nations have understood Lucas' use of the term 'clone' as?"