People viewed animals as companions and co-workers for centuries yet it is only recently that their emotions and thoughts were scientifically studied. It is startling to read that only 60 years ago animals were viewed as robotic machines devoid of feeling. Virginia Morell demonstrates this new wealth of knowledge and research about the minds of the creatures we share our lives with in her book Animal Wise.
I got a sneak preview of this book a few months ago when Morell spoke at a creative non-fiction workshop in Washington D.C. She was revealing some methods on capturing an audience and introducing a character. To demonstrate she read part of the first chapter of her upcoming book, Animal Wise, introducing an ant scientist leaning over a large square petri dish. I was captured!
The research presented in this book is thorough and complex. We don’t know what other people are thinking most of the time and we can communicate freely. Imagine experimenting with ants, fish and rats! Almost every scientist that Morell writes about had to overcome many obstacles and scepticism for their research to be recognized. She tells their story and the new perspective they have given us about the animals they study.
Morell meets a few celebrities along the way. Irene Pepperberg overcame this communication obstacle by teaching her parrot, Alex, to talk. The ‘Birds with Brains’ chapter in the book is mainly about Alex’s feats and not only tells the story of a famous parrot but also the dedication of a researcher.
I was keen to discover the intelligence of my housemates, Eve (black lab) and Twig (tabby cat). Morell was unable to investigate cats’ mental talents due to the lack of research. This is because “cats are independent creatures, getting them to repeat experiments… is extraordinarily difficult.” However, there is an entire chapter on dogs and wolves which reveals the extraordinary bond between people and our best friend.
The time Morell spent with scientists in order to compile this book makes reading it so enjoyable. It is not simply a recount of cognitive or behaviour research. Animal Wise tells the story of researchers as well as the animals they study, the relationships they form and the discoveries they make.
UP FOR GRABS! Become Animal Wise:
Science Calling has a copy of Animal Wise to give away (thanks to Crown Publishing Group).
Simply comment below & you’ll be entered into the draw. I’ll announce the winner this Friday, 27th September.