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A Primate's Memoir
An Excerpt From Chapter One

.....

A Primate's Memoir

A Primate's Memoir
by Robert M. Sapolsky
Scribner
304 pages, $25

It was 1978; John Travolta was the most important human alive, white suits were sweeping our proud nation, and Solomon was in the final year of his rule. Solomon was good and wise and just. Actually, that's nonsense, but I was an impressionable young transfer male at the time. Nevertheless, he was a pretty imposing baboon.... Within the small, parochial, self-interested, unreflective petty world of male baboons, being alpha was hot stuff.... You got to do about half the matings, sit in the shade when it was hot, enjoy the best food with a minimum of effort merely by ripping off someone else's lunch box. And Solomon excelled at all of this. He had been alpha male in the troop for three years, an inordinately long time for a male's tenure. The grad student who preceded me with the troop said that Solomon had been a ferocious and canny fighter back when he defeated his predecessor, but by the time I got there (and secretly instituted the name Solomon—his boring published identification number I will never divulge), he was in his silver years and resting on his laurels, persisting out of sheer psychological intimidation. He was damn good at it. He hadn't had a major fight in a year. He would just glance at someone, rouse himself from his regal setting and saunter over, at the most swat him, and that would settle things. Everyone was terrified of him. He swatted at me once, knocked me off a rock, shattered my going-away-to-Africa gift binoculars, left me terrified of him as well. I immediately dropped any plans I might have had of challenging him for the alpha position.


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Copyright © 2001 by Robert M. Sapolsky. All rights reserved.