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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

 
 
Author
Robert M. Sapolsky.
Publisher Touchstone  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.35 x 5.5 x 0.75 inches
ISBN 9780743202411
Pages/Publication Date 304/2001
Daedalus Item Code 44165
This item is not available.
Description
"I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla," writes primatologist Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist's coming-of-age with a troop of rambunctious baboons in Kenya. Also the author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, Sapolsky writes of his 21 years among the baboons, interweaving serious scientific observations with descriptions of culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the remotest vestiges of unspoiled Africa.

"Few would relish a job requiring proficiency with a blowgun as well as a willingness to put up with parching heat, low pay and copious amounts of baboon shit. But for Sapolsky, a Stanford professor and MacArthur grant recipient, it was literally a dream come true. As a boy in New York City, he'd wanted to live in one of the African dioramas at the Museum of Natural History. One week after graduating from Harvard in the mid-1970s, he got his chance: he went to Kenya to study social behavior in baboons. Hilariously unprepared for the challenges of living in the bush, the naive grad student learned to deal with supply and transportation snafus, army ants and giant cockroaches, safari tourists, dinners of canned spaghetti coated with a mixture of sugar and rancid camel's milk, and surreal government bureaucracies. He developed great fondness for 'his' baboons, whose behavior seemed uncannily like that of a bunch of quarrelsome human adolescents, and discovered that their interactions didn't necessarily conform to accepted theories. While Sapolsky's primate observations are always fascinating, his thoughts on Africa and Africans are even more compelling. As funny and irreverent as a good ol' boy regaling his friends with vacation-from-hell stories, Sapolsky can also be disarmingly emotional as in his clear-headed tribute to late gorilla researcher Dian Fossey, and his final chapters, which reveal his rage and impotence as he watched his baboons succumb to a horrific plague. Filled with cynicism and awe, passion and humor, this memoir is both an absorbing account of a young man's growing maturity and a tribute to the continent that, despite its troubles and extremes, held him in its thrall."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 
 
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