A Primate’s Memoir is a scientific book written by Robert Morris Sapolsky.
Robert Sapolsky is a famous American biologist, neurologist and traveler. He works at Stanford University and contributes into the development of neurological sciences. No wonder, he has decided to improve his knowledge about behavior and stress on the example of primates. Naturally, primates are very close to humans. Their behavior and reaction towards stress are very similar. It is smart to study the peculiarities of their behavior if you want to get to know about humans and their instincts. Sapolsky has devoted his entire life to the observation of primates. He has chosen baboons for the detailed analysis and study, because they resemble humans a lot.
Robert Sapolsky wrote A Primate’s Memoir as a set of reflections about his profound analysis. He started his research as a graduate student. He went to Kenya in order to analyze stress and behavior of baboons. Doubtless, these primates are very aggressive and one can learn a lot when he observes their social interactions and everyday life. Sapolsky had to get used to the new environment, climate, people and culture. He learnt Swahili in order to be able to communicate with the local Kenyan tribes. It does not worth mentioning that this new environment was a challenge, because Sapolsly lived in a civilized country with different traditions and lifestyle. He was shocked when he saw the local people and their traditions.
The entire book consists of 29 chapters dedicated to his major field of study and numerous related issues. The importance of this book cannot be overestimated, because Sapolsky has managed to complete detailed biological, neurological and anthropological research. One can use the results of his investigation for different purposes. It is possible to get to know about different cultures and about neurological issues. The author has visited Kenya for twenty years and he has accumulated deep knowledge about his field of study. The results of his research have influenced the development of neurology, psychology and forensic sciences. For example, he studied the reaction of baboons towards stress and described the mechanism of the insanity defense. This description of stress-related diseases is valuable for criminology and psychology.
A Primate’s Memoir is divided into four parts, which reflect four stages of a baboon’s life.
The first part is devoted to childhood and adolescence of a baboon. The second part describes the subadult years of a primate’s life. The third and fourth sections concentrate on adulthood of an average baboon. Robert Sapolsky paid attention to the development of a baboon’s brain during its lifetime. He wanted to understand the actual effect of chronic stress on the condition of brain and primate’s behavior. He studied baboon’s behavior, social life and its social position when he analyzed the impact of stress on its brain. Moreover, he measured symptoms of stress with the help of blood testing. He measured stress hormones, cholesterol, antibodies and other indicators shooting an ape with an anaesthetizing dart every day.
Sapolsky described his adventures in Africa and shared his experience with the reader. He wrote about the peculiarities of life of the local tribes and described the wildlife in detail.
The author travelled to other neighbor countries around Kenya in order to study their people and fauna. He was astonished when he saw that many people still used spears and consumed cow’s blood. Moreover, some tribes practiced polygamy in their families.
Sapolsky wrote about numerous incidents with the local people, Kenyan soldiers and threats to his life.
A Primate’s Memoir is a valuable scientific book, which touches upon neurophysiological and anthropological issues. No wonder, it was nominated for The Aventis Prizes for Scientific Books in 2002.
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