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Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Man, A Phonograph and His Primates

"From childhood, I believed that all kinds of animals have some mode of speech by which they can talk among their own kind; and I have often wondered why man has never tried to learn it."
-Richard Lynch Garner, 1892

Primatologist Richard Lynch Garner
devoted his life to studying the speech and habits of apes and monkeys in zoos and central Africa. At times, Garner placed himself in an elevated cage to observe primates in their natural habitats of Africa. He used a phonograph to record and interpret primate sounds and language.

The Richard Lynch Garner Papers 1828-1920 is the National Anthropological Archives featured collection for February. His papers consist of diaries, manuscripts (including his charming "An Autobiography of a Pie,") photographs, poetry, maps, artwork and clippings. For more information on the Garner Papers, please see the catalog record. Some of Garner's photographs are available to view online here.

Leanda Gahegan, National Anthropological Archives


  1. do you have more snow covered gardens? Love to see more examples.

  2. Hi -

    I'm actually working on a book on Garner's life, and he was one of the most eccentric figures to visit Central Africa from the US! Check out Gregory Radick's The Simian Tongue (University of Chicago Press, 2007) for an introduction to this deeply flawed but fascinating man.

    Jeremy Rich, History Dept., Middle Tennessee State University