Cover: Lucy’s Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution, from Harvard University PressCover: Lucy’s Legacy in PAPERBACK

Lucy’s Legacy

Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution

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Product Details


$30.00 • £24.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674005402

Publication Date: 05/31/2001

Academic Trade

528 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

21 line illustrations


In Lucy’s Legacy, a charming, eclectic and sensible book, [Jolly] argues that while evolution certainly involves competition, the major transitions have arisen through cooperation… With humor and erudition she leads the reader to an understanding of the biology and behavior of primates, through the evolution of intelligence and into ‘the age of humanity,’ where evolution is charted chiefly by the human mind. Her genius in this informative, satisfying book is to strip away dogma and politics that have shrouded evolution, to reveal a theory Darwin would recognize as his own. ‘There is grandeur in this view of life,’ he wrote, and here it is seen marvelously.—Ellen Ruppel Shell, New York Times Book Review

[Jolly’s] inspiring account of our past and potential future…shows how…the epic story of our evolution can be told as much in terms of co-operative interplay as competition… Jolly guides us through these debates and others with a delightful mixture of common sense, panache, and up-to-date erudition… [Lucy’s Legacy] is stuffed with a wonderful array of facts that ground Jolly’s assertions.—Andrew Whiten, Times Literary Supplement

One of the things that makes this book so satisfying is the way it clearly and cleverly gets around the whole nature/nurture question by looking at the complex interplay between a mother and baby, in which each is programmed to learn from the other. This is not what anyone would call headline science: it’s just well-written, witty, thought-provoking and full of fascinating detail. You don’t learn how to do primatology, but you do learn what kind of primate you are, which is, for most people, more valuable.—Andrew Brown, The Guardian

This is a book which agrees that nature is often red in tooth and claw, but encourages us to feel good about it all the same… Everybody should understand [sociobiology’s] essentials, and Jolly’s book provides an excellent outline… She writes with a serenity that is especially pleasing in a field usually harsh with the sound of grinding axes… One of this book’s most valuable dimensions is its calm exposition of a worldview which is unequivocally sociobiological, and at the same time sure in its affirmation of feminist and liberal values.—Marek Kohn, The Independent

Alison Jolly’s book is a refreshing and stimulating account of evolution, and especially the evolution of sex and intelligence in humans and primates. One of its strengths is her presentation of the female view. We men have always had a tendency to consider life from our own perspective… Jolly proposes that the traditional feminine viewpoint on evolution is one of cooperative organization and not of competition. This is the counterpart to the fundamental dilemma for anyone trained in Darwinian evolutionary theory, with its emphasis on rampant individualism.—Christophe Boesch, Nature

Jolly traces four evolutionary transitions in this compelling book and says we are in the early stages of a fifth… The range of things Jolly knows is stunning, and the connections she finds among those things are often startling. She flavors her gripping tale with lines from poems. Occasionally she throws in a joke…[and] she is hopeful that the fifth transition will turn out well.Scientific American

This is an engaging romp through the human story and a thoughtful exploration of who we are as both a biological and a cultural species. Although Jolly covers a considerable diversity of topics in four major sections, each chapter of the story is woven together with a unifying theme of cooperation… Jolly does an elegant job weaving biology, history, art poetry, anecdotes and facts alike to unfold the tapestry of who we are as a species. This book provides a thoughtful review of many decades of research by biologists, primatologists, sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists, although Jolly’s original ideas pepper the discussion. It is an erudite and witty think piece, liberally seasoned with insights and illustrations gleaned from throughout the humanities and sciences—an appropriate blend from the author who bemoans the arbitrary dichotomization of human biology and human culture. Indeed, for those of us who believe that both biology and culture can contribute to our understanding of who we are as a species, this book is an amusing read and a refreshing antidote to the estrangement of the natural and social sciences.—Joanna E. Lambert, American Scientist

[Jolly’s] method is to offer a host of lively facts to grip the imagination… All this provides a rich mix, which could have ended up as a convoluted tangle of facts. But Jolly bounds from topic to topic with all the assurance of one of her beloved lemurs… Her book is full of wry, ironic humour, as well as knowledgeable remarks about the way science works… Bolstered by acute analysis of the degree of mental sophistication of the great apes, Jolly produces a convincing reappraisal of the position of male and female in human evolution… Lucy’s Legacy has the tone of a wise friend reminding you of things you had forgotten while arranging them for you in a delightful, previously unperceived and revelatory way—and doing this for your edification, rather than for their own glory… Jolly’s subject is serious, her erudition profound in a book deft and sure enough to engage even those with the briefest of biological backgrounds. She has pulled off the most elegant of scientific popularisation tricks: being light without being lightweight.—Adrian Barnett, New Scientist

A good book worth reading.—Michael Ruse, Globe & Mail

Jolly has made two of the most significant contributions to paradigm shifts in primatology. She was the first to recognise the social power of females in groups, and she formulated the first statement of the social intelligence hypothesis, which argues that intelligence and mentality are consequences of social opportunities, not by-products of tool use, bipedalism or human language… Lucy’s Legacy is beautifully written, elegant, poetic and artistic as well as deeply knowledgeable.—Phyllis Lee, Times Higher Education Supplement

Lucy’s Legacy is really a compendium of all that has been accomplished in animal behavior and evolutionary biology since 1960… Here we have all the major achievements from the past few decades and, taken together, as they are in this book, the whole is impressive… Jolly is at her best when writing about humans.—Meredith Small, Evolutionary Anthropology

Mention should be made of the graceful embellishment of the text with poems. A rich tapestry, provocative and fun.Science, Technology and Society

Jolly’s book is an outstanding example of how sociobiology has matured. She is feminist in a relaxed, inclusive, open-minded, and undefensive way.—Mary Ellen Curtin,

In clear and clever prose, Jolly shows us how we got started, what sex had to do with it, and how our brains have become the central force in evolution. With the recent decision of the Kansas Board of Education to play down the teaching of evolution, this may be the time to stock up on good sources that tell the remarkable story of how we became human.—Philip Herbst, Booklist

Primatologist Jolly accents the imperatives of reproduction as an evolutionary force, from the australopithecines onward, particularly as an influence on increasing brainpower.—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

[Jolly] tells a good tale in her quest to explain where we came from and where we’re headed… Jolly is an enthusiastic guide; she has fun with all this, and readers will too.Kirkus Reviews

Jolly suggests that enhanced cooperation, social behavior, and the division of labor have played significant roles [in human evolution]. [She] is sympathetic to a sociobiological approach, which emphasizes the role of evolution-influenced instinct as both an asset and a problem for our species; she provides many interesting insights based on her knowledge of primate intelligence and behavior. She also discusses some interesting fossil evidence of paleontology, muses over the views of various factions on human evolution, and speculates on the future of our species and of our planet. An interesting, well-written, and well-documented book.—Marit MacArthur, Library Journal

Princeton primatologist Jolly brings good news from prehistory and delivers it with style. Neither evolutionary theory nor sociobiology, as popularly understood, flatter humanity. Evolution paints a grim picture of survival of the fittest, and sociobiology has more than a few sexist implications. Jolly argues that human development is not the story of battle after battle to determine survival of the fittest… [She] considers neo-Darwinism explanations of human feelings and decisions, from white lies to charitable giving to abortions. As she moves from discussions of human culture to her own research among the Lemurs of Madagascar, Jolly proves an illuminating guide to the complex intersection of nature and nurture… [An] accessible, comprehensive and thought-provoking work.Publishers Weekly

One of the best-written, erudite, and informative books I have seen in a long time. Building on her expertise as a primatologist, Alison Jolly addresses an incredible range of topics, from the peculiarities of the Y-chromosome to those of postmodernism. The sex wars are in full swing here, but always presented with balance, humor, and nice bits of poetry.—Frans B. M. de Waal, author of The Primate Mind: Built to Connect with Other Minds

Alison Jolly is a pioneer in the study of social intelligence and one of primatology’s Great Souls. This book is a treasure.—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

Lucy’s Legacy shows a keen intelligence about both sexual and mental life in the compelling worlds of primates. Jolly’s accounts mine a deep vein of evolutionary and biobehavioral research to bring the reader into the drama of human evolution and multistranded relation to our near kin. Jolly believes in a rich possible human future for Lucy’s descendants. Such visions are crucial in a world that too easily loses track of its biological inheritance. The book’s wit alone is worth the price; but best of all, the reader will set the book down with a deeper appreciation of the complexity of primate natures and the richness of our scientific cultures that have let us know more about these important matters.—Donna Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz

If you want to know how you became the most intelligent and sexiest creature on Earth, this is the book for you. Alison Jolly, one of the world’s leading primatologists, provokes us to think deeply and clearly about our place in nature—our origins, our primacy on the planet, and even where we may be heading as a species. Written with grace and wit, Lucy’s Legacy offers refreshing and challenging insights into what it means to be human.—Don Johanson, Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University

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