A Primate's Memoir

A Primate's Memoir

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Baker & Taylor
The author offers a memoir of his two decades in the field studying Kenyan baboons as he describes the members of the baboon troop and their behavior and his interaction with the neighboring Masai tribe.

& Taylor

An award-winning scientist and author of The Trouble with Testosterone offers an entertaining memoir of his two decades in the field studying Kenyan baboons as he describes the diverse members of the baboon troop and their behavior and his interaction with the neighboring Masai tribe. 60,000 first printing.

Simon and Schuster

"I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla," writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist's coming-of-age in remote Africa. Raised in an intellectual, immigrant family in Brooklyn, Sapolsky wished he could live in the primate diorama in the Museum of Natural History. He wrote fan letters to primatologists, started reading their textbooks at age fourteen, and even learned Swahili in high school, all with the hopes of one day joining his primate brethren in Africa. Finally, upon graduating from college, Sapolsky's dream comes true when, at age twenty-one, he leaves the comforts of the United States for the very first time to join a baboon troop in Kenya as a "young transfer male."

Book smart and naive, Sapolsky sets out to study the relationship between stress and disease. But he soon learns that life in the African bush bears little resemblance to the tranquillity of a museum diorama. He is alone in the middle of the Serengeti with no radio, no television, no electricity, no running water, and no telephone. His nearest neighbors are the Masai, a warlike tribespeople whose marriages are polygamous, with wedding parties featuring tureens of cow's blood. The victim of countless scams and his own idealistic illusions, Sapolsky nevertheless survives culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the farthest vestiges of unspoiled Africa. As he conducts unprecedented physiological research on wild primates, he becomes evermore enamored with his subjects -- unique and compelling characters in their own right -- and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevents him.

Here is Robert Sapolsky's exhilarating account of his life in the bush with neighbors both human and primate, by turns hilarious and poignant. The culmination of more than two decades of experience and research, A Primate's Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost scientist-writers.

Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2001.
ISBN: 9780743202473
Characteristics: 304 p. ; 25 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Oct 21, 2016

Having worked in south-central Africa I was more interested in the human interaction than the baboon research, so I was pleasantly surprised that I only flipped passed 10-15 pages in this humorous and insightful saga of cultural confrontation and travel.

May 16, 2016

Wonderful book written by an amazing scientist. The book taught me so much about Africa and Africans.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an open mind, and also suggest you check out some of Robert Sapolsky's videos and lectures on YouTube. You won't be disappointed.

Sep 12, 2011

Top notch. Intelligent, warm, hilarious. Extremely readable. I'm completely in love with the author.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at JCLS

To Top