Jun 29, 2008

Lucy: Growing Up Human

A Chimpanzee Daughter in a Psychotherpist's Family
by Maurice K. Temerlin

In the seventies, Maurice Temerlin, psychotherapist, conducted an experiment of raising a chimpanzee in his home and treating it like a human child. In Lucy: Growing Up Human he describes what life was like with a growing chimp in the house, and gives his analysis of her behavior. Some of the things Lucy learned (from being taught or by mimicking her human family) were to sit in a chair, use silverware, drink from a cup (she liked wine), put on clothes, entertain herself by looking at magazines, and even basic communication with sign language. The descriptions of Lucy's behavior are nothing less than fascinating. But the family gave her way too much freedom, she was hardly disciplined. The chimp practically destroyed their house, terrorized visitors, and created awful messes (she never learned to use a toilet). I was amazed at the tolerance the family had for her destructiveness, amused at many of the hilarious scrapes she got them into, and at Temerlin's attempts to psychoanalyze her behavior. A great book, interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. Temerlin mentioned at one point the idea of his wife writing a book on her viewpoint of the experience, but I don't think that ever happened. Too bad, I would have liked to read what she thought of it all. What happened to Lucy after she left the Temerlins is told in Silent Partners.

Rating: 4/5                216 pages, 1976


  1. Anonymous6/30/2008

    I felt a sense of foreboding when I read that phrase, "What happened to Lucy after she left the Temerlins..." So I just read your review of Silent Partners. Sad, sad.

    Right now I'm reading 'Never Let Me Go.' I read your review of that too. Sounds like it will raise similar questions.

  2. Yes; it is very sad. Lucy was the one they tried to rehabilitate into the wild. It didn't go well. Her caretaker said she ended up shot by poachers.

  3. Oh, darn, I'm sorry to read that things ended so badly with Lucy. It sounds like a fascinating experiment, and that chimps need discipline just like children.

  4. Sounds like my three year old! Except he is toilet trained. Great review, Jeanne! Even sadder though, is the comment they didn't keep her, and the experiment ruined her for life - ie she never had a normal life for a chimpanzee.


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