Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would be Human

Author(s): Elizabeth Hess


If ever a chimpanzee could be said to have charisma, it was Nim Chimpsky. Brought to New York as part of a scientific experiment, he lived his early years with a large family in an elegant brownstone on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. The researchers of Project Nim hoped to prove that by assimilating Nim into a human family, he could learn sign language with enough proficiency to show promise of being able to refute Noam Chomsky's contention that the capacity to learn language was a uniquely human trait. Nim proved to be a good student - pleasing researchers with the level of proficiency he acquired, and the charming, well-mannered personality he developed.He began to eat meals with his family, attended children's birthday parties, and even became somewhat of a celebrity when he made guest appearances on Sesame Street, modeling good behavior for toddlers. But when funding for the study ended, Nim's problems began. No one had thought about what to do with an animal who had been raised to believe he was human - and who had a projected lifespan of another 30 or 40 years. Over the next two decades, exiled from everyone he loved, Nim was rotated in and out of various facilities, including, at his lowest point, a medical lab where research was being done on a vaccine for hepatitis. But everywhere he went, Nim's ability to converse with humans would be his lifeboat, saving him again and again from the fate of his peers.


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"Nim Chimpsky is a very important story that should go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of our betraying the trust of animals who depend on us for their well-being. Laugh, cry, and share widely."--Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado; author of "The Emotional Lives of Animals" and "Animals Matter;" editor of the "Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships
""If you read only one book about the strange, fruitful, and fraught relationship between humans and animals, let this be it."--Dale Peterson, author of "Jane Goodall, The Woman Who Redefined Man"
"""Nim Chimpsky is an indictment of our attitudes to our closest relatives."--Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University and author of "In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave." and "The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter"
"An absolutely absorbing page-turner by a writer of such boundless empathy that she could tell an animal's story and make it, yes--deeply human."--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickled and Dimed"
"I stayed up all night reading this book and could not put it down. I became totally convinced that Nim understood sign language when he banged on a closed door and signed 'hurry open now."--Temple Grandin, author of "Animals in Translation
""A smart, tough-minded, big-hearted meditation on the fate of our nearest relatives, and a marvelous biography as well. The story of Nim Chimpsky tells us more about our own species than we probably want to hear, but we need to hear it, now."--Russell Banks, author of "Darling
""An unforgettable biography of an extraordinary animal. Nim's voice is on every page of this book. You will remember him long after the book has ended, and what he has taught you will change, forever, the way you look at animals."--Ruth Reichl, author of "Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic
""Hess's clear, lively, and gently sorrowful biography swings from Nim's 26-year life story ... to a larger portrait of the human researchers, philosphers, and caretakers who upended Nim's life."--"Entertainment Weekly"
"Elizabeth Hess' splendid account ... amounts to a biography of Nim, a story every bit as stirring and elaborate as that of a famous person."--"Seattle Times"
"As poignant an animal story as you can get.... Nim was an unforgettable character--affectionate, mischievous, empathetic, and utterly charming."--"Christian Science Monitor"

"From the Hardcover edition."

General Fields

  • : 9780553382778
  • : Random House USA Inc
  • : Bantam Dell Publishing Group, Div of Random House, Inc
  • : 0.399
  • : January 2009
  • : 210mm X 140mm X 18mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Elizabeth Hess
  • : Paperback
  • : 636.98850929
  • : 384
  • : black and white photos