• S. L. Washburn
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


“Primates are inevitably the most interesting of mammals to an egocentric species that belongs to this order” (Simpson 1945, p. 180). And further, p. 181, “The peculiar fascination of the primates and their publicity value have almost taken the order out of the hands of sober and conservative mammalogists and have kept, and do keep, its taxonomy in turmoil.” Surely anyone who looks at recent books on primates will be impressed, and depressed, by the long lists of names and the apparent lack of agreement even among specialists. The turmoil would not be important, and we might cheerfully wait until the disagreements are settled by new discoveries, but the primates are studied in many courses and referred to in numerous books and thousands of papers. They are important in medical research, psychology, zoology, anthropology, and in the continuing controversy over “man’s place in nature,” as stated by Huxley in 1863. It is my belief that the situation is not really so complicated, and my aim here is to suggest some of the roots of the confusion and ways to simplify the problems.


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Further reading

  1. Goodman M, Tashian RE, eds (1976): Molecular Anthropology. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  2. Luckett WP, Szalay FS (1975): Phytogeny of the Primates. New York: Plenum PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Sibley CG, Ahlquist JE (1984): The phylogeny of the hominoid primates as indicated by DNA-DNA hybridization. J Mol Evol 20:2–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Wolfheim JH (1983): Primates of the World. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. L. Washburn

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