- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Bantam (February 26, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553803832
- ISBN-13: 978-0553803839
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,187,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $6.99 shipping
Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human Hardcover – February 26, 2008
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Nim Chimpsky was born in a captive chimpanzee colony in 1973. Named as a play on Noam Chomsky, the famous linguist whose theory that language was a uniquely human trait the researchers hoped to disprove, Nim was to be raised in a human family and taught American Sign Language. This study on how language is acquired by humans would challenge the idea that only humans use language and blur or erase the line between human and nonhuman. But the study also created a chimpanzee with a foot in both worlds, neither fully chimp nor fully human, which further created a challenge for all of Nim’s caretakers and Nim’s own later salvation. Journalist Hess has written an affecting biography of one of the stars of primate research, from his beginnings as a two-week-old infant raised in a New York brownstone, through his various stays in research centers, his movement to a medical research facility, and his final home, at Cleveland Amory’s animal sanctuary, Black Beauty Ranch. Nim’s story is a must for all libraries. --Nancy Bent
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This book held my attention throughout, gave a new perspective on the personalities of chimpanzees, and did an excellent job of describing the strengths and weaknesses of those who interacted with Nim and other chimps. It also, in my opinion, did a credible job of illustrating the often petty issues that arise between academics as they vie for funding and fame.
As the author makes clear a number of times throughout the text, using captive animals in laboratory experiments and loving them as pets are two entirely different things. And so the problem with this book, if one wants to quibble, is the dichotomy of telling Nim's story from a scientific, controlled point of view versus telling the story of Nim Chimpsky, an animal who drew people to him by his sweet, take-no-prisoners nature. The author tries to have it both ways, albiet leaning heavily to the animals-as-loving-pets side. (My favorite part was picturing Nim Chimpsky and his beloved friend Sally Jones on the lam, walking hand-in-hand towards a caretaker's home "as if he thought they had been invited for dinner".)
Nevertheless, this was a fascinating book with characters coming and going at a very quick pace one wouldn't expect. There were so many that at the end of the book when Elizabeth Hess gives updates on all of the people who played a part in Nim's life, I could barely remember who they were and several times consulted the Index to jolt my memory.
There have been more than a few books and articles written about Nim Chimpsky over the years, plus lots of other books detailing the hazards of trying to humanize non-humans, but they are by their very nature extremely sad stories and this is probably the last one I will be able to read. Fortunitely, it was very well written and thorough to a fault so I won't feel that I am missing anything ...