Tag Archives: primate

Köhler’s Anthropoid Research Station, Circa 2011

In 1913, Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Köhler moved from Germany to the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. In Puerto de la Cruz on the island of Tenerife, Köhler assumed the directorship of the Prussian Academy of Science Anthropoid Research Station where he conducted important early work on tool use in apes. Famous images from Köhler’s ape research include that of apes stacking wooden crates to reach bananas hanging out of research. His research with apes led him to argue that it was insight rather than trial-and-error that allowed apes to problem solve. In 1917 he published his findings as the book, The Mentality of Apes.

Today the Tenerife research station still exists, but in a state of disrepair. The station has been classified as a cultural interest site by the Spanish government and the Wolfgang Köhler Association is working toward the site’s restoration. The videos above show the site as it exists today, interspersed with film clips from Köhler’s original research and is it part of an ongoing documentary project, INSIGHT. Though the film’s audio is in Spanish, the images are striking.

Tip ‘o the hat to Gabriel Ruiz for bringing these videos to AHP’s attention during a recent discussion on the Cheiron (the International Society for the History of the Behavioral and Social Sciences) and Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association) listserves.

Robert Yerkes & the First 100 Chimpanzees

The website The First 100 provides details of the first 100 chimpanzees bred at the primate research centre established by psychologist Robert Yerkes (right). In the 1910s, Yerkes called for the creation of a primate research institute. Throughout the following decade, Yerkes conducted research on the animals and paid a visit to a primate colony in Cuba, where he observed chimpanzees. In 1930, Yerkes’s successful research with chimpanzees allowed him to obtain the institutional and financial support – from Yale University, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation – to establish a primate centre: the Yale Laboratories for Primate Biology. As described on the Center’s website,

The chimpanzee colony included four animals that Dr. Yerkes had in Connecticut, 13 chimpanzees that were donated by a prominent Cuban citizen and 16 apes that were a gift from the Pasteur Institute of France. The same year, the first chimpanzee birth occurred at the Center; the offspring, named Alpha, provided Dr. Yerkes with the first detailed observations of a chimpanzee’s development and reproductive processes.

Although initially affiliated with Yale University and based in Orange Park, Florida, the Centre later came under the ownership of Emory University in 1956 and in 1965 moved from Florida to Georgia. Today the Center continues to operate as the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

The First 100, created by philosopher Lori Gruen of Wesleyan University, memorializes the first 100 chimpanzees bred at Yerkes’s primate research institute, providing details on their lives and lineages, as well as on Yerkes and the institute itself. As Gruen describes on the site‘s opening page,

In 1925, Robert M. Yerkes began an ambitious experiment: to institutionalize the scientific use of chimpanzees in the United States. In 1930, in Orange Park, Florida, the first captive experimental breeding colony of chimpanzees was opened and research as underway. Today an estimated 1,300 chimpanzees are in research laboratories in the U.S. Many of them are descendants of the original colony.

The site is described as the outcome of a larger project:

While doing research for her forthcoming book on human relations to captive chimpanzees, Dr. Lori Gruen became interested in the genealogy of chimpanzees in the United States. R. M. Yerkes, a rather elaborate list maker, left behind many incomplete lists that Gruen began filling in while working through archival materials. One document in particular captured her attention — “Complete List of Chimpanzees: Yale Laboratories of Primate Biology.”

This list provided the initial basis for Gruen’s site, which details the lives of Bill through Flora, and the 98 chimpanzees born in between. Go to The First 100 and explore the lives of Jenny, Pan, Gamma, twins Tom and Helene, and others.

Thanks to Michael Pettit for bringing this site to AHP’s attention.