I have spent my entire adult life engaged in a quest to understand not just who I am but how creatures like me came to be . . . What does it mean to be born a mammal, with the emotional legacy that makes me capable of caring for others, breeding with the ovaries of an ape, possessing the mind of a human being . . . to be a semicontinuously sexually receptive, hairless biped, with conflicting aspirations and struggling to maintain her balance in a rapidly changing world?
—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, from Preface to Mother Nature (1999)
Photo: J. Wallis
Sarah Hrdy is professor emerita at the University of California-Davis and Associate in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard. A former Guggenheim fellow, she has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the California Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Her books include The Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction; The Woman that Never Evolved, selected by the New York Times as one of the Notable Books of the Year in 1981; Mother Nature: A history of mothers, infants and natural selection which won the Howells Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Biological Anthropology and was chosen by both Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal as one of the “Best Books of 1999"; and Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding, an exploration of psychological implications of humankind’s long legacy of shared child-rearing which has been awarded both the 2012 J.I. Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research and a second Howells Prize.
She and her husband Dan have three children and currently combine growing walnuts with habitat restoration on their farm in northern California.
Sarah B. Hrdy