Next of Kin: What Chimpanzees Have Taught Me About Who We Areby Roger Fouts, Stephen T. Mills
Roger Fouts fulfilled humankind's age-old dream of talking to animals by pioneering communication with chimpanzees through sign language. His decades of groundbreaking work with these amazing animals - who share more than 98 percent of our DNA - made scientific history as their unprecedented dialogues opened a window into chimpanzee consciousness and the origins of… See more details below
Roger Fouts fulfilled humankind's age-old dream of talking to animals by pioneering communication with chimpanzees through sign language. His decades of groundbreaking work with these amazing animals - who share more than 98 percent of our DNA - made scientific history as their unprecedented dialogues opened a window into chimpanzee consciousness and the origins of human language and intelligence. Now, in Next of Kin, Fouts tells the dramatic story of his personal and professional odyssey from novice researcher to celebrity scientist to impassioned crusader for the rights of animals. At the heart of this captivating book is Fouts's magical thirty-year friendship with Washoe, whom we watch grow from a mischievous baby chimp fresh out of the NASA space program into the matriarch of a clan of chimpanzees who fill these pages with tales of humor and heartbreak, pathos and love. Living and conversing with these sensitive creatures has given Fouts a profound appreciation of how much we share with our closest biological relatives, and what they can teach us about ourselves. Fouts also describes the crisis of conscience he faced when he discovered that hundreds of chimpanzees were being subjected to perilous biomedical experimentation in laboratories across America. At significant risk to his own career, he became an outspoken advocate for improved conditions for animals in research labs, and devoted himself to rescuing this lost generation of chimpanzees.
Thirty years ago, Fouts started teaching chimps American Sign Language (ASL), in hopes of being able to speak directly with them. He was under no illusion that he was teaching chimps the art of communication: They had been communicating in the wild for millennia, with gestures, the dialects of hand movement, facial expressions, and body language. Nonetheless, Fouts was astounded by the speed at which his charges took to ASL and their talents for wordplay and grammar. His research allowed him to put in perspective theories of animal intelligence and language acquisition, from Descartes and Darwin to Skinner and Chomsky, and to formulate his own notions of the remarkable similarity between chimp and human biology and intelligence, of grammar as a complex form of rule-following behavior, and how ASL helped him bridge the sundered audiovisual links experienced by autistics. But clearly the most important thing Fouts feels he learned is that these creatures don't belong in cages, and no matter how much compassion and respect are given the research subjects, morally and ethically, keeping them in captivity is wrong. To drive that point home, he details the barbaric conditions in which lab animals are kept, the excruciating tests they are put through, in powerfully soulful language. And though he can't be counted among the draconians, Fouts recognizes his own culpability in the diminished lives of his charges.
A compelling book. Fouts (aided by wildlife writer Mills) has a way of making us all feel responsibility for the fate of these chimps and for the hellacious acts against them. Jane Goodall has written the book's introduction.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.55(w) x 9.66(h) x 1.48(d)
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This book is breath taking. Not only does Fouts include strong facts to back up his research, he also touches your heart with stories of personal encounters with chimps. Anyone and everyone should read this book. I work at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, and see Washoe everyday, and this book only begins to describe her journey.
great storyline and window of truth upon the primate studies conducted in the world today. shows the sides of our primate ancestors that are mostly hidden from public view. includes a photograph section as well. definitely worth the read.