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Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human (Thorndike Nonfiction) Hardcover – Large Print, 16 May 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 571 pages
  • Publisher: Gale Cengage; Lrg edition (16 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410406865
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410406866
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 15.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,406,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kim Stallwood on 26 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
If there's anyone left on the planet who needs convincing that chimpanzees are more like us (or we're like them) than they'd care to think they need to read Elizabeth Hess's biography of Nim Chimpsky, the chimpanzee who was taught to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL).

Animal biographies are a publishing curiosity. Me Cheeta: The autobiography, the memoir of Cheeta, the celebrity chimpanzee who swung from tree to fame in the Tarzan movies, was recently published. As clever as chimpanzees are no one really believes it was Cheeta who wrote it (it was James Lever). American Presidential pets are also notorious for writing books. Socks, the Clinton's cat, wrote Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets (well, Hillary claims to have written it which is just as likely as Socks writing it). Bush Senior's dog, Millie, wrote Millie's Book; As Dictated to Barbara Bush (debatable, again, as to whether it was Millie or Barbara who wrote it). We look forward to the literary delights of Barney (Bush Junior's dog), who will presumably write from his residential retreat in Midland, Texas. (Barney already has his own page on the White House website.

Writing a serious biography of an animal is a formidable challenge, as I know from working with the artist, Sue Coe, on a project about Topsy, the elephant electrocuted by Edison in 1903. Human lives, unlike animal lives, are documented from birth to death. Hess's accomplishment in Nim Chimpsky: The chimp who would be human is framing the biography to address his life and the lives of the humans and chimpanzees who shaped his life, starting as a controversial research tool and ending as a rescued celebrity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simon K Mead on 21 Jun. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting read.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By deborahh on 16 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I found this book dull to say the least, not what i expected after reading other reviews, good for bedtime as it would send any Insomniac to sleep, dissapointing
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 54 reviews
62 of 72 people found the following review helpful
False and misleading information 11 Nov. 2009
By W. Benesch - Published on
Format: Paperback
It appears that Ms. Hess failed to check with the all participants of Project Nim for accuracy. The information about Delafield is both inaccurate and the time frame of those in the house is terribly incorrect. The initial move involved 4 people, Laura, Walter, Amy, and Andrea (who is never mentioned). The author states: "Terrace hired Amy Schachter and Walter Benesch (this reviewer), a couple who had occasionally worked with Nim over the past year and a half. Terrace invited them to move into Delafield, where they would share a bedroom (120)." This is not only false but liable. I was (a volunteer - not hired) moved into the room over the kitchen and Amy moved into a room on the 3rd floor. They were not a couple and did not meet each other until shortly before the move to Delafield. She also has the incorrect age for me. I worked as a youth service worker for the City full time and did not have his degree in social work as stated. I became involved in the project through his graduate work in anthropology, when Ralph Holloway referred him to Terrace. When I left the project it was to obtain a degree in social work.

Walter is described as "had hard work to keep ahead of the chimp." That is not so. Hess says that "Benesch would dutifully replace it (locks) with a new and more complex system." He never replaced a single lock. Likewise he never experienced the throwing of feces and other extreme behavior described while Nim was a Delafield with the one exception of the tantrum described below.

On page 124, she has Bob Johnson living in Delafield at the same time as Benesch. Again this is false information. Bob did not move in until Walter had left for more graduate work at Boston University. It appears the author did not read Dr. Terrace's book about the Sunday mornings where Walter (not Bob as he was not in Delafield at this time) would create pancake receipts together. When Walter left the project, Nim would not eat the plain pancakes others fixed since they lacked the spices and combination of flours and fruit Nim and I would put into the batter. We actually wrote (but never published) a pancake cookbook for children with the receipts Nim made, with his rating of each.

The story about Nim being dragged "into a small upstairs kitchen on the human side of the house. Benesch stayed with Nim as Tynan, outside locked the door (page 156-7)" is pure fictionalization of what actually happen. Tynan was not in the house at the time. Nim escaped into the upstairs common room that Laura and Amy would use. Yes, Walter was locked in while Nim had his tantrum. Likewise, he could not have "Called Tynan for help" since Tynan was not in the house at the time. It was Laura that called Walter for help. The rest of what is described on the following pages is again filled with half truths and a lot of misinformation.

Based upon reading the episode in which I was involved with Nim and how inaccurate it is, I have to raise serious doubts about the remainder of the book. Although I was very happy to find out about what happen to Nim after Delafield, the inaccuracies are so great it puts the remainder of the book in serious question.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A bittersweet, but wonderful piece 22 Mar. 2008
By Lisa M. Teehan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
To keep this short and sweet, I received this book in the mail yesterday morning and finished all 300+ pages by last night. I could not put it down. It really touched my soul. I always considered myself an animal lover, but after reading this tragic story there is no doubt in my mind that animals really do have personalities, emotions and souls. Shame on people who treat them as if they were worthless and disposable. Although I found myself crying during various chapters in the book, I am so glad I read it because it really opened my eyes. It makes me want to get involved in animal rights! What a great tribute to such a wonderful soul that was Nim Chimpsky.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Great Read 11 Mar. 2008
By Mary Gail Biebel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful biography of Nim, a signing chimp, but it also serves as a study of the sometimes blurred boundaries between what it means to be an "animal" and what it means to be human. Elizabeth Hess has done an extraordinary job of unraveling Nim's story and presenting it in a lucid and compelling manner. She makes the story, the science, and the learnings from Nim's life accessible to the reader.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Moving Account Of An Unwittingly Cruel Experiment 28 Jun. 2008
By Michael G. Radigan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A thought-provoking, moving account of Columbia professor Herbert Terrace's attempt to teach a chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky, American Sign Language. Among other things, this compellingly written account illustrates humanity's casual cruelty toward animals, even when the animal is as human-like as the chimpanzee. Lovingly raised as a human child for purposes of the research, Nim was cast aside once the experiment was deemed a failure. Even the most intelligent of Nim's human handlers had failed to think through the ethical implications of raising an intelligent, wild creature as a human being, or thought much about Nim's intense emotional life and connections to human beings. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone with an interest in primates, human linguistics, animal rights, or, especially, our responsibilities toward the "dumb" animals that share the planet with us.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Power of Nim 19 Mar. 2008
By Sarah Houston - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the real tragedies of Nim Chimpsky is that he and the other chimps profiled in the book have more intelligence, honesty, and "humanity" than the so-called scientists entrusted with their care. What an indictment--not only of medical testing and laboratories who are now the whipping boys of animal activists--but of the "social" scientists who believed that their experiments were any less traumatic or inhumane for the chimps than the biologists with their Hepatitis C vaccines! Out of all of the psychologists, students, and volunteers in Project Nim, only a hand full displayed the loyalty, perservance, compassion, and integrity of Nim and his fellow chimps. This book calls into question all of our preconceived notions of what species is the most advanced and enlightened. My money is on the chimps.
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