Adrian Desmond

Published On


Page Range

pp. 239–246


  • English

Print Length

8 pages

9. Damned Monkeys

  • Adrian Desmond (author)
Urban monkeys came with unsavoury baggage, making a simian ancestry for mankind problematic. The poor perception stemmed from the slum-dwelling organ grinders infesting London’s streets, gin-drinking satyrs in Cross’s Menagerie, and from the ferocious baboons in the dog-fighting dens. Apes were little known, largely considered unintelligent, and the few zoo youngsters exposed to journalists were dressed in working-class clothes, emphasising their disreputable status. Worse still for pious folk, the biblical exegetics of Dr Adam Clarke had pointed to Eve’s tempter, not as a snake, but as an ape. This gave Saull’s suggestions of our ape origin an unacceptably Satanic ring.


Adrian Desmond


Adrian Desmond was educated at University College London and Harvard University, where he was Stephen Jay Gould's first history of science PhD student. He has two MSc's, one in history of science, another in vertebrate palaeontology, and a PhD for his work on radical Victorian evolutionists. For twenty years he was an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London. He is the multi-award-winning author of nine books, which include: The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London, Darwin, Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple, Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest, Darwin’s Sacred Cause (with James Moore)