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Beauty and the Beasts: Woman, Ape, and Evolution Hardcover – July, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who's interested in the human sex drive, mothering or criminality will find provocative material in this study of our evolutionary cousins and the women who've researched them. From "trimates" Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birut‚ Galdikas to the next generation of female field-workers they inspired, women have dominated primatology thanks to their patience, dedication and perhaps, as Louis Leakey suggested, some predisposition to communication with nonverbal creatures. These women have faced remarkable risks to study the creatures they loved (and often to protest the actions of poachers and other human intruders): Dian Fossey was killed on the job, and many others faced dangers ranging from civil war to angry apes. Jahme, an English primatologist and filmmaker, thoughtfully explores the work of female primatologists and its implications for the study of evolution, sex and gender. Her style is even more anecdotal and informal than Natalie Angier's, and equally political, especially in her analysis of the randy, female-bonded bonobo monkeys. She not only knows her science, but has a real knack for making it comprehensible to the uninitiated. Though Jahme occasionally digresses too far into the love lives of her field-workers, she always returns, to her readers' delight, to her apes ape sex, ape infanticide, ape intelligence and to the remarkable relationship between woman and beast. 45 illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Sara Fisher (U.K.). (July)Forecast: The jacket art depicting a pretty, sarong-draped woman eyeing a coy simian may raise some eyebrows, but as primate research clearly shows, sex appeal guarantees survival of the species. If this book is well displayed and receives the review attention it deserves, it should find a solid perch on the nature bookshelf.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Sue Howell of the Primate Foundation of Arizona analyzed a sample of people in the field of primatology in 1999, determining that while men held more academic positions than women, women outnumbered men three to one as students. British primatologist Jahme explores this imbalance, arguing that women become emotionally attached to the animals they study and thus are ideal for pursuing long-term primate studies. Men instead "publish papers, push their careers forward and move on" to stations in academia. The author touches on primate studies, but her emphasis is squarely on the people rather than the science. Jahme examines the lives of such primatology notables as Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas, and Dian Fossey, detailing the relationships and life events that shaped their pursuit of this vocation. At times she goes too deep into personal matters love affairs and such that have little bearing on her subjects' careers. And she gives short shrift to the pioneers who happened to be male: in her opinion, giants like Robert Yerkes and Harry Harlow missed the big picture. Still, Jahme provides useful biographical information on less celebrated female primatologists such as Jeanne Altman, Barbara Smuts, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa. An appropriate addition to history of science and women's studies collections. Raymond Hamel, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Ctr. Lib., Madison
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569472319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569472316
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,463,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on July 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The great apes share more than 98 percent of our DNA and in the last 40 years women have come to dominate the study of our closest relatives. Today 62 percent of primatologists are women. British primatologist Jahme's anecdotal overview of primate research focuses on the women who have shaped the field since Jane Goodall ("The Chimpanzees of Gombe," "Reason for Hope") established her chimp site at Gombe in 1958. Though women have made most of the startling discoveries about wild primate behavior, it was a man, Louis Leakey, who got it all started. Believing that the study of apes would enhance our knowledge of human evolution and convinced that women were more patient and observant than men, and therefore more suited to fieldwork, Leakey encouraged Jane Goodall's interest in wildlife and steered her to chimps. Inspired by Goodall's work, Leakey's other two "trimates", Dian Fossey ("Gorillas in the Mist") and Biruté Galdikas ("Reflections of Eden") achieved similarly impressive results studying gorillas and orangutans.
Jahme strikes a good balance between the work and the women, relating the dangers and controversies along with the triumphs. Jane Goodall left Gombe for two years after she was nearly abducted by terrorists in 1975 (four other workers were taken and later ransomed) and she has been criticized for influencing chimp behavior by using feeding stations (a practice she also now condemns). Dian Fossey was only in the Congo a few months when she was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by soldiers in 1967. She was the last white person to escape the Eastern Congo and all she wanted to do was get back to her gorillas, which she did, establishing a base on the Rwandan side of the mountain.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book and a must read for anyone interested in primates, primatology, evolution of man, the history of this area of science, the development of language, and the conservation of primates. Jahme discusses the major female primatologists (Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas) as well as many lesser known, but equally important, women (and some men) in the field. Women seem to be better suited to studying primates in the wild, over long periods of time, in physically demanding and isolated environments than men are. They are attracted to this challenging field partially because of their innate maternal instincts. I gave this book a 4 because there are several factual mistakes, and many grammatical errors. These interfere with the flow of thought and makes one wonder if there are other factual errors that are not immediately apparent. This author needs a good editor, not just for the grammar but to verify facts. Still, it's fascinating for the layperson or anyone with a smattering of a background. Humans and chimpanzees share 98.5 of their DNA; this fact alone should make the subject of primatology and evolution important to every one of us.
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Format: Hardcover
I liked this book. It offers an informative and broad overview of the achievements in primatology during the late 20th century, particularly those of women. As a layperson, I appreciate very much that "Beauty and the Beasts" is intellectually stimulating, but not overwhelming.
The subject matter is riveting: Women who sacrifice their lives to the study of primates. They risk being mauled by the subjects of their observations, eaten by lions, gored by bulls, kidnapped, raped--by both terrorists and orang-utans--and murdered. They often sacrifice their familial relationships, the opportunities of husbands and children and social interaction with other human beings. Carole Jahme takes on an enormous amount of material in her well organized and easily accessible book.
I disagree with some of her politics, particularly regarding motherhood and infanticide. We are given case after case citing the importance of young primates fully bonding with their mothers, yet Jahme repeatedly excuses the many female primatologists she profiles for all but abandoning their young children. She also argues that infanticide is biological and defends British law which generally punishes the crime with probation and psychiatric care. I cannot excuse a mother murdering her baby, particularly in developed Western countries where women have options. Despite our biological urges, we have moral obligations to rise above nature. But these represent mere paragraphs in a highly enjoyable book.
The editing, however, is no less than criminal as it unavoidably undermines Jahme's scholarly credibility. There are numerous grammatical errors and confusing sentences. Most unfortunate are the several dozen typos.
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Format: Hardcover
Jahme relates the great surge in the past 50 years in the study of primates by the great encouragement of noted anthropologist Louis Leakey inspiring Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas and other women to live among chimps, baboons, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans, and study their daily behavior.
She describes the women, their personal lives, their discoveries of primate behavior, the utility of those discoveries for the study of man. Jahme is aware that when one tries to tame a wild creature, that creature's behavior can change. It is a well written book with references to other books on similar subjects. Its general conclusion is that our primates are very close to us.
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