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Now in Trade Paperback
Could an adorable chimpanzee raised from infancy by a human family bridge the gap between species—and change the way we think about the boundaries between the animal and human worlds?
Dubbed Project Nim, the experiment was the brainchild of Herbert S. Terrace, a psychologist at Columbia University. His goal was to teach a chimpanzee American Sign Language in order to refute Noam Chomsky’s assertion that language is an exclusively human trait. Nim Chimpsky, the baby chimp at the center of this ambitious, potentially groundbreaking study, was “adopted” by one of Dr. Terrace’s graduate students and brought home to live with her and her large family.
At first Nim’s progress in learning ASL and adapting to his new environment exceeded all expectations. But no one had thought through the long-term consequences of raising a chimp in the human world, and when funding for the study ran out, Nim’s problems began.
Over the next two decades, Nim was rotated in and out of various facilities. No matter where he was sent, however, Nim’s hard-earned ability to converse with humans would prove to be his salvation, protecting him from the fate of many of his peers.
Praise for Nim Chimpsky:
"One of the most memorable and intelligent recent books about animal-human interaction. . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)