Monkey Farm: A History of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, Orange Park, Florida, 1930-1965

Monkey Farm: A History of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, Orange Park, Florida, 1930-1965

Monkey Farm: A History of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, Orange Park, Florida, 1930-1965

Monkey Farm: A History of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, Orange Park, Florida, 1930-1965

Synopsis

This book concerns the history of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology as they existed in Orange Park, Florida, during 1930-1965. The Yerkes Laboratories were among the more important facilities in the history of comparative psychology and related fields. They held the largest collection of chimpanzees for research in the world. Many important scientists spent parts of their careers there. A primary theme of the book concerns changing patterns of patronage for science as it shifted from private foundations to federal agencies and the effects this had on the scientific enterprise. Donald A. Dewsbury has been a member of the faculty of the University of Florida since 1966.

Excerpt

THE MAIN TITLE OF THIS BOOK, “MONKEY FARM,” REFERS TO THE popular vernacular name used by Orange Park residents in referring to the station. The facility was founded as the Laboratories of Comparative Psychobiology of Yale University by Robert M. Yerkes, one of the leading psychologists of the twentieth century. Yerkes’ goal was to secure knowledge that could be applied in a program of social engineering for the betterment of humanity. The Yerkes Laboratories became the largest and most important collection of chimpanzees for research in the world. During its thirty-five-year history it was home to some of the leading behavioral scientists of the time.

Writing its history has been a delight and a challenge. My graduate education was in experimental psychology and I had a twenty-fiveyear career as a comparative psychologist interested in the evolution of social and reproductive behavior. When I decided to switch from laboratory research to historical research I began with a series of relatively small projects, as I cut my teeth in a new field. Eventually, I sought a subject that was amenable to a more substantial, booklength treatment. The Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology seemed to be an ideal topic. The facility was located about a one-and-a-halfhour drive from the University of Florida. It was the home to some of the leading scientists in the field and became a leading research facility for work on nonhuman primates. I felt that most topics were within my range of expertise. Further, as I investigated the history of the Laboratories, it became clear that the story was both significant and rich enough to merit book-length treatment. There are many facets to the laboratory, the research that was done there, and the people who worked there. I became fascinated with its story.

I began work on the project during the early 1990s but I did not seek a book contract at that time for several reasons. I felt that I did not yet have sufficient credibility as a historian of psychology to merit strong support. Further, this was a new project for me and I was . . .

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