Solly Zuckerman: the making of a primatological career in Britain, 1925–1945

Solly Zuckerman’s work has been largely dismissed or marginalized by both historians of primatology and primatologists. This paper, using archival and published materials, re-examines both his life and his research into primate sexuality and sociology in the 1920s, endocrinology in the 1930s, and the effects of bomb blast in the 1940s. Despite the many flaws in his work, which is now largely outdated, his career reveals a great deal about the audiences for primatological knowledge in pre-war and wartime Britain; the interlocking circles of the scientific community that impinged on primatology; and competing ideas of what constituted a scientifically correct methodology for the observation of primate behaviour. Also noted is the gap between Zuckerman’s self-presentation as the scourge of anthropomorphism and the anthropomorphism of his remarks in private notebooks. Although his work well illustrates familiar themes of patriarchy, military and colonialism in the history of primatology, it also suggests another, underexplored dimension of that science: primatology as an example of cross-species social interaction
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2006.03.007
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