The latest installment of “On the Origin of HBES: An Oral History,” focuses on Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an anthropologist and primatologist who has made major contributions to sociobiology and related disciplines. Selected as one of 21 Leaders in Animal Behavior in 2009 and recipient of the Lifetime Career Award from the Human Behavior and Evolution Society in 2013, Sarah is professor emerita at the University of California-Davis, Associate in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, and A.D. White Professor-At-Large at Cornell University. 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. For many years she edited the Foundations of Human Behavior series and continues to serve on editorial boards for Evolutionary Anthropology and Human Nature. She lives with her husband Dan, a retired medical doctor and walnut grower on their farm in northern California where they are engaged in sustainable agriculture and habitat restoration (http://www.citrona.com/vita.html).
My “interview” with Sarah was less of me questioning her and more of an epic nostalgia session between Sarah and fellow HBES Lifetime Career Award recipient Bill Irons. Here’s why: Sarah showed up a touch early, while I was still interviewing Bill, and she had a handful of candid photos of Bill Hamilton, Bob Trivers, George Williams, and others in hand. Our filmmaker, Dave Lundberg-Kenrick, keenly noticed that she was itching to show the photos to Bill and suggested that I step out of frame and let Sarah sit in and do so on camera. Ninety minutes later, with cameras nearly overheated, we had a treasure trove of remarkable reflections, anecdotes, backstories, insider scoops, and reminisces that left me howling, enthused, enlightened, inspired, and with tingles down the spine. To be a fly on the wall for two brilliant and eloquent elder statesmen (er, woman; sorry, Sarah) to trade stories about knife fights that Hamilton and Trivers may have had (not with each other, thankfully), Hamilton arguing with automobiles and getting attacked by killer bees, Trivers being well, Trivers, and much, much, more was simply wonderful. Just surreal, folks. I cannot do justice here with how candid and insightful it was, so I won’t even try. Enjoy.