Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In Memoriam - Washoe (1965-2007)

I was saddened to read of the death of Washoe, the chimpanzee who learned to use American Sign Language under the tutelage of cognitive researchers R. Allen and Beatrix T. Gardner. This occured while I was in college and I was fascinated by the whole experiment due to its linguistic and philosophical implications. I even wrote a paper for my "Philosophy of Man" course. I felt a real psychic link with her and with Koko the kitten-loving gorilla who learned more than 1,000 sign language words during research at Stanford University. Rest in peace, sweet Washoe...and may you find Heaven to be a place where you can tickle and be tickled to your heart's content...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marie,

    I remember Washoe, who was probably the most advanced of the group of chimps involved in these language studies. One major problem with all such studies is the close relationships these intelligent cousins of ours develop with the researchers. The depression and distress they suffered when the individuals they had grown close to finished their contract and moved on was palpable. There's an old saying 'a dog is for life, not just for Christmas' and this seems so much more appropriate to me when applied to chimpanzees and other monkeys used in long term tests. I applaud the physical care given to these subjects, but to me its equally important to provide emotional care and stability too. However, my overview of such projects is a positive one and I feel it helps put us in our place; all animals have feelings and genetically it proves how close we are to many other species.

    Love, Nick


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