Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human

Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human

Elizabeth Hess

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 0553382772

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Now Elizabeth Hess’s unforgettable biography is the inspiration for Project Nim, a riveting new documentary directed by James Marsh and produced by Simon Chinn, the Oscar-winning team known for Man on Wire. Hess, a consultant on the film, says, “Getting a call from James Marsh and Simon Chinn is an author’s dream. Project Nim is nothing short of amazing.”

An adorable baby chimp, a loving family, and an experiment that changed the lives of all it touched . . .

Project Nim, the brainchild of a Columbia University psychologist, was designed to refute Noam Chomsky’s claim that language is an exclusively human trait. Nim Chimpsky, the chimpanzee chosen to realize this potentially groundbreaking experiment, was raised like a human child and taught American Sign Language while living with his “adoptive family” in their elegant Manhattan town house. But when funding for the study ended, Nim’s problems began. Over the next two decades he was exiled from the people he loved, put in a cage, and moved from one facility to another, including, most ominously, a medical research lab. But wherever he went, Nim’s humanlike qualities and his ability to communicate with humans saved him. A creature of extraordinary charm and charisma, Nim ultimately triumphed over a dramatic series of reversals and obstacles. His story, both moving and entertaining, also raises the most profound questions of what it means to be human—and about what we owe to the animals who enrich our lives.

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Terrace's own apartment was more of a bachelor pad than a nursery. Terrace, who had probably never changed a diaper in his life, called Stephanie Lee, a former student of his and an experienced mother, to ask for help. Unlike Terrace, she thrived on spontaneity and loved having animals around her. She immediately agreed to take the chimp into her own home. For Stephanie, this story really begins in 1961, when she took her first psychology class at Columbia University as an undergraduate. It was

depended upon to come home at night for dinner, and when he did show up, he spent the whole evening talking on the phone with Stephanie, as if they were in high school. Assuming that their infatuation would end, Ann did everything she could to save her marriage. She even went downtown in her efforts to bring WER back uptown. At Stephanie's suggestion, she joined a women's consciousness-raising group that met weekly in Westbeth. Ann believed this would allow her to monitor Stephanie's behavior and

not appreciate a chimp who hooted louder than the soundtrack. Maggie gave Nim the month off from any language work. She wanted him to climb trees, chase birds, and learn how to build drippy sandcastles. Nim had been to the park but had never spent time in the country. Maggie, accompanied by her own babysitter, filled Nim's schedule with swimming lessons in the pool (he finally managed to put a toe in the water), trips to the ice cream parlor (peach was his favorite flavor, and he was partial to

head. It felt almost like a physical sensation. Only hours later, he declared himself a psychology major, and Fouts sent his new recruit to get a TB test, mandatory before setting foot on IPS soil. (This was to protect the chimps, who are particularly susceptible to the disease.) A few days later, Ingersoll and his wife, also eager to meet the amazing chimpanzees, drove out to the farm. Immediately upon getting out of their car, Ingersoll and Williams were accosted by Vanessa, a young,

2, 1982, a local Oklahoma paper broke the story. The details were sketchy; the exact number of chimps sold, whether they had already been shipped, how they would be used, what kind of care they would receive, and what might happen to them in the future were all questions that remained unanswered. The university blamed inflation for its decision to stop funding IPS. Lemmon, for his part, defended LEMSIP, arguing that the chimps would be safe there; LEMSIP had signed a contract with IPS agreeing

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