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The Primate Diaries

The Primate Diaries

Notes on science, politics, and history from a primate in the human zoo.

I grew up in an old house in Forest Ranch, California as the eldest of four boys. I would take all day hikes with my cat in the canyon just below our property, and the neighbor kids taught me to shoot a bow and arrow. I always loved reading and wrote short stories, poems, and screenplays that I would force my brothers to star in. A chance encounter with a filmmaker from Cameroon sent me to Paris as his assistant and I stayed on to hitchhike across Europe. Nearly a year later, I found myself outside a Greek Orthodox Church with thirty Albanian and Macedonian migrants as we looked for work picking potatoes.

After my next year of college I moved to Los Angeles to study screenwriting and film production. My love of international cinema deepened into larger questions about the origins of human societies and cultures. I entered graduate school with a background in anthropology and biology, joining the world-renowned department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University to pursue a PhD in great ape behavioral ecology. But larger questions concerning the history and sociology of scientific ideas cut my empirical research short. I am now completing a dissertation at University of British Columbia on the intersection between evolutionary biology and politics in England, Europe, and Russia in the nineteenth century. In 2011 I met the economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen whose work inspired my award-winning research.

My writing has always been a labor of love and a journey unto itself. I have written about the hilarity that ensues once electrodes are stuck into your medial ventral prefrontal cortex for Discover, the joy of penis-fencing with the endangered bonobo for Wildlife Conservation, and the “killer-ape” myth of human origins from Shakespeare’s The Tempest to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey for Times Higher Education. My work has appeared online for Wired, PLoS Blogs, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, SEED, ScienceBlogs, Nature Network and a host of independent science related websites. I have appeared four times in The Open Laboratory collection of the year’s best online science writing and was selected the same number as a finalist for the Quark Science Prize, though better writers have always prevailed. I am currently working on my first book.

If I am not engaged in a writing or research project I spend time with my young son, Sagan. Whenever I get the chance I go on backpacking trips in the mountains of British Columbia or catch the latest film from Zhang Yimou, the Coen Brothers, or Deepa Mehta. To this day one of my favorite passages ever written is from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden where he describes an epic battle between ants in Concord, an injured soldier limping forward as the still living heads of his enemies cling to his legs and thorax “like ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow.” Thoreau helped fugitive slaves to escape while he mused on the wonder and strange beauty of the natural world. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

About Nathaniel Gold

Nathaniel Gold is an Illustrator, Author, and Educator with an MFA in Illustration.  His work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, The New York Press as well as many others. His work was recognized by the Society of Illustrators in 2008 and in 2009 he published his first book The Chimpanzee Manifesto which went on to win a Gold Medal for outstanding book of the year in the 2010 Independent Publishing Awards (IPPY). Nathaniel is an adjunct professor at FIT in NYC where he teaches a survey course on art styles and the influences of popular culture on the development of American illustration. Nathaniel is currently working on his second book (an illustrated novel) he lives in Long Island with his wife, two children, and dog Thelonious.

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