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The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal Paperback – April 13, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0385334303 ISBN-10: 0385334303

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The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal + The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal (Kodansha Globe) + The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (April 13, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334303
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Here is the Naked Ape at his most primal - in love, at work, at war. Meet man as he really is: relative to the apes, stripped of his veneer as we see him courting, making love, sleeping, socialising, grooming, playing. Zoologist Desmond Morris's classic takes its place alongside Darwin's Origin of the Species, presenting man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape, remarkable in his resilience, energy and imagination, yet an animal nonetheless, in danger of forgetting his origins. With its penetrating insights on man's beginnings, sex life, habits and our astonishing bonds to the animal kingdom, The Naked Ape is a landmark, at once provocative, compelling and timeless. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

"A startling view of man, stripped of the facade we try so hard to hide behind." In view of man's awesome creativity and resourcefulness, we may be inclined to regard him as descended from the angels, yet, in his brilliant study, Desmond Morris reminds us that man is relative to the apes--is in fact, the greatest primate of all. With knowledge gleaned from primate ethnology, zoologist Morris examines sex, child-rearing, exploratory habits, fighting, feeding, and much more to establish our surprising bonds to the animal kingdom and add substance to the discussion that has provoked controversy and debate the world over. Natural History Magazine praised The Naked Ape as "stimulating . . . thought-provoking . . . [Morris] has introduced some novel and challenging ideas and speculations."

"He minces no words," said Harper's. "He lets off nothing in our basic relation to the animal kingdom to which we belong. . . He is always specific, startling, but logical." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Desmond Morris was born in 1928. Educated at Birmingham and Oxford universities, he became the Curator of Mammals at London Zoo in 1959, a post he held for eight years.

In 1967 he published The Naked Ape which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and has changed the way we view our own species forever.

An accomplished artist, TV presenter, film maker and writer, Desmond Morris's books have been published in over thirty-six countries.

Customer Reviews

It's a very interesting read and I highly recommend it!
Desmond Morris' works in general are very interesting, accessible to non-scientists, easy to read, and quite full of information.
Alena D.
I had read "The Naked Ape" by Desmond Morris and greatly enjoyed it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Harold F. Hedrick on December 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Desmond Morris wrote "The Naked Ape" in the late 1960's, and it is a classic which established the field of evolutionary anthropology. His ideas were revolutionary at the time, and he clearly says so. If there is a fault in the book, it is that he covers too much ground too quickly. I think his purpose at the time, however, was simply to condition the reader to thinking of people as an animal that has been subject to the forces of biological evolution on the Savannah for 98 percent of our evolution. Our species only formed farming communities 10,000 years ago.
Much of Morris's conjecture has been turned into solid research in more recent years. For example, studies have found that males are sexually attracted to females having a waist/hips ratio of 0.7. This is universal among contemporary societies including primitive societies. When shown diagrams of women having different waist/hips ratios, male members of the primitive societies chose the 0.7 ratio and specifically indicated child bearing ability being linked to it. Females universally are attracted to males having a waist/hip ratio of 0.85.
The argument between nurturing versus evolution is likely to continue. This book started the argument. It is certainly a serious argument. Some readers may prefer not to think as humans as being animals. Some readers, particulary those interested in newer cultural trends such as feminism, may find certain of Morris's arguments objectionable. The material is oriented towards understanding how biological evolution of Homo Sapiens has affected their social behavior. It is not directly related to how to get along with your lover or spouse. However, the book was as thought provoking today as when it was written. It is an excellent introduction to the field of evolutionary anthropology.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on September 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
If human beings ever make contact with an intelligent species from beyond planet earth, then the observations those "people" might make about us would probably read quite a bit like the ones evolutionary zoologist Morris makes in this humorous but deadly serious study of the human animal. The very things we have come to see as mundane about ourselves are the very traits Morrison zeroes in on here. Very little escapes this careful study, although in some cases humanity might collectively wish it had. In this book the human species is anatomically, psychologically, sociologically and biologically cataloged and classified. We read a dispassionate critique of our mating habits, the ways in which we raise our young, our preferences for foods, for where we live, for how we interact with one another, and what bodily features are universally desired over others. In the end I was left both amazed and embarrassed to be among the membership in this great and crazed life form.
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Peter Gray on September 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book can rightfully be called a classic. It represents an early account of the ways in which an evolutionary perspective can illuminate human behavior. It confronts a wide range of subjects, from the signaling value of postures to the role of infant crying. The use of a carnivore model to interpret the evolution of the human family is admirable, in its attempt to link such a phenomenon with knowledge of other animals, if misleading. All this said, however, The Naked Ape should be read cautiously by anyone seeking a current understanding of similar subject matter. For example, Morris' claim that human behavior should best be understood in complex nations such as Britain (p. 51:"The only solution is to take average results from large samples of the most successful societies. The small, backward, and unsuccessful societies can largely be ignored.") represents an assumption since turned on its head by evolutionary psychologists. Read alone, this book will generate interest but too-often misinform; read in combination with more recent work (e.g. Pinker's How The Mind Works) this book can be seen as most valuable.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Leonardo Alves on January 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
A common metaphor for the modern megalopolis is the concrete jungle. According to Desmond Morris this is a mistaken image. The big cities don't look anything like a jungle where we would be able to live in peace with our nature. The urban human lives more like a zoo animal separated from his/her roots and presenting all sorts of distorted behavior unnatural to the species.
Human evolution toke place over millions of years. During most of the time we lived in small tribes as hunters and gatherers. Civilization is new. We are not fine tuned to it yet. As the author states "In a village all the neighbors are personal friends or, at most, personal enemies; none are strangers. In a large city many people do not even know the names of their neighbors."
This impersonal environment fosters all kinds of negative attitudes towards our peers such as violence or indifference as if someone who you don't know walking down the streets were from a different species, some kind of an animal, or, what's worse, not alive at all; an object or one more number to be added to the statistics.
In a gigantic community the odds of anyone becoming a dominant individual are too dim. Almost everywhere with the new political atmosphere any individual can reach a very high position in his community just based on his merits. But democratization of access to power also democratizes the frustration of not getting there. For one dominant individual on a human zoo there are millions of frustrated would be leaders lost in the rat race. And they all know that they failed because they didn't have what it takes.
To alleviate the frustration we subdivide our community in intricate overlapping sub communities of the approximate size of the primeval tribes.
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