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I’m looking for the earliest story with clones (genetic duplicates of people created via technology and grown from cells/embryos) in it. Just how old is the trope?

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    "Genetic cuplicates of people created via technology" would seem to include such things as duplicate people resulting from matter-transmitter malfunctions. I don't think that's what you mean, I think you want them grown from cells, but please clarify.
    – user14111
    Dec 4, 2021 at 3:21
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    haaretz.com/amp/jewish/… "The Sumerian myth Enki and Nihursag (a central god and his wife, a mother goddess), which predates the Hebrew bible, actually tells a story of life been generated from a rib. Enki becomes sick and his mother cures him by giving birth to two gods from her ribs in order to heal him. One is Ninti, whose name is a pun on the double meaning of ti in Sumerian - the noun “rib”, and the verb “to make live.” Thus Ninti’s name means “Mrs. Rib” and “Lady who give life.” Eve too is called “Mother of all life.”" Dec 4, 2021 at 4:25
  • It's not a biological clone, but Fritz Lang's Metropolis, 1927 (and presumably also the 1925 book by Thea von Harbou) depict a duplicate of a person being created. Dec 4, 2021 at 19:37
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    Since the answers aren't really hitting a story with a cell taken from an adult and grown into a new individual (how I'd define clone in a SF context) this may have something of interest sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/clones [note Brave New World is artificial twins which isn't the Dolly the Sheep real world mammal cloning breakthrough - though obviously twins are a type of clones just not the assumed science fiction connotation. My answer by another Huxley doesn't produce a new individual and Le Singe doesn't produce a living individual- though it is quite fascinating as an answer. Dec 5, 2021 at 6:18

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Brave New World 1931 (published 1932, Aldous Huxley).

The Bokanovsky process which was enacted before birth in which the newly fertilised egg was forced to divide an arbitrary number of times to create up to 96 identical copies.

Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon ova are removed from their incubators so that they may undergo Bokanovsky’s Process. “One egg, one embryo, one adult—normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a fullsized adult.

Although never referred to as "clones" the copies would be identical in appearance and conditioning and be assigned to their predestined roles dependant only on their genetic stock.

Definition of clone taken from American Heritage Dictionary.

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  • Interesting, in juxtaposition to the next answer about his brother
    – M.M
    Dec 5, 2021 at 12:06
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    Not a coincidence in the names then, didn't realise. @M.M Dec 5, 2021 at 12:30
  • This is identical to (probably inspired) the way CJ Cherryh described how Azi were produced -- and she also named them as "clones" explicitly.
    – Spencer
    Dec 5, 2021 at 13:55
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The Tissue-Culture King 1926 Not full clones but cell line tissue cloning. Basically a tribe that worships their chief and elders switch to preserving cell lines. Which greatly expands the freedom for the original king. Full story https://archive.org/details/Amazing_Stories_v02n05_1927-08_017/Amazing%20Stories%20v02n05%201927-08%20017?view=theater#page/n35/mode/2up

Description from Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tissue-Culture_King

The Tissue-Culture King (1926 in Cornhill Magazine and in The Yale Review, reprinted 1927 in Amazing Stories and many times afterwards) is a science fiction short story by biologist Julian Huxley.

The story tells of a biologist captured by an African tribe. It incorporates the idea of immortality based on reproduction from a tissue culture and genetic engineering...

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Another near miss is Le Singe, 1925, Maurice Renard and Albert Jean. Translated as Blind Circle. Synopsis from here:

Renard’s most detective-like sf narrative—perhaps patterned on Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue—was published in 1925 and carried the title Le Singe (curiously translated as Blind Circle, 1928). It was co-authored with Albert Jean and, like most of Renard’s fiction, originally appeared in feuilleton format (in 62 episodes) in a Parisian pulp journal. Its plot concerns a police investigation of the mysterious presence of multiple dead bodies—all of the same person, a certain Richard Cirugue. After innummerable twists and turns in the narrative, the mystery is finally solved: Richard is actually still alive. Using his recent discovery of an electrolysis procedure to duplicate (but not animate) animal and human tissue, he had fabricated lifeless clones of himself and scattered them around Paris as a publicity stunt to attract investment capital for his scientific research. In an even more bizarre twist, Richard subsequently dies (for real) but his spirit manages to survive and ultimately inhabits the cloned body of his brother, whose wife he lusts after. Needless to say, apart from its somewhat Frankenstein-like motif of creating synthetic bodies out of a chemical vat, Le Singe is less a science-fiction novel than, as one critic has said, a "comedy of manners, sex, [and] mystery in the manner of Gaston Leroux" (Bleiler, 620).

(emphasis is mine.)

Note that discussion of clones and cloning, by that specific term, is common and frequent in nonfiction journals of agriculture and plant science of the 1890s-1930s.

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    Last point is worth a mention
    – Stilez
    Dec 5, 2021 at 0:53
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    "L'énigme de Givreuse" (1916-1917), J.-H. Rosny (the eldest), tells the story of Pierre de Givreuse, a soldier returning from the trenches, and "cloned" after a secret scientific experiment of "molecular bipartition". Obviously, they both fall in love with the same woman... A tribute is paid to J.-H. Rosny in "Le singe", in which he intervenes as a character in his own role. (sources: Rétrofictions, encyclopédie de la conjecture romanesque rationnelle francophone, Guy Costes and Joseph Altairac, and wikipédia fr) Dec 5, 2021 at 20:07

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