Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human

Elizabeth Hess, Author . Bantam $23 (369p) ISBN 978-0-553-80383-9

In what is surely one of the most memorable and intelligent recent books about animal-human interaction, Hess (Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter ) tells the story of Nim Chimpsky, who in the 1970s was the subject of an experiment begun at the University of Oklahoma to find out whether a chimp could learn American Sign Language—and thus refute Noam Chomsky's influential thesis that language is inherent only in humans. Nim was sent to live with a family in New York City and taught human language like any other child. Hess sympathetically yet unerringly details both the project's successes and failures, its heroes and villains, as she recounts Nim's odyssey from the Manhattan town house to a mansion in the Bronx and finally back to Oklahoma, where he was bounced among various facilities as financial, personal and scientific troubles plagued the study. The book expertly shows why the Nim experiment was a crucial event in animal studies, but more importantly, Hess captures Nim's “legendary charm, mischievous sense of humor, and keen understanding of human beings.” This may well be the only book on linguistics and primatology that will leave its readers in tears over the life and times of its amazing subject. (Mar. 4)

Reviewed on: 12/17/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Paperback - 346 pages - 978-986-6651-65-6
Open Ebook - 213 pages - 978-0-553-90470-3
Paperback - 369 pages - 978-0-553-38277-8
Hardcover - 571 pages - 978-1-4104-0686-6
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