From a postabout the brutal murder of his wife and children by a man who then shot himself … came the observation “two-legged animal” and Robert Ardrey’s reference to man as more of a “risen anima” rather than a “fallen angel.” It read as follows:


I don’t like to post such horrible actions by people supposedly living according to society’s marriage expectations however for those yet surviving perhaps a few words of wisdom from others may help. Such actions by this married man is best described as the actions of a two-legged animal. Perhaps Robert Ardrey was right when he spoke of humans as risen animal rather than fallen angel … “Robert Ardrey quotes – “But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.” Note Robert Ardrey’s “Africa” connections and his visit with the Paleontologist who discovered the African Taung Baby in the 1920s the predecessor of the 2011 “Ardi” archaeologica discovery of Australopithecus Ardi who walked the savannas of Africa over 4 million years ago as evidenced by his skeleton remains now preserved in a museum! Check out Robert Ardrey’s remarkable Broadway playwright and African paleontologist publications career! … ”

Africa :

In 1955, when Ardrey was considering a trip to Africa, Max Ascoli, publisher of The Reporter, offered to buy anything that Ardrey would write there.[5]:119 At the same time Ardrey renewed an acquaintance with prominent geologist Richard Foster Flint. Because of Ardrey’s background in geology and paleontology, Flint arranged for Ardrey to investigate claims made by Raymond Dart about a specimen of Australopithecus africanus.[5]:119

Ardrey met Dart in South Africa and examined his evidence. Particularly, Dart had amassed a sample of 5000 fossils from the Makapan cave. Among the fossils bones that could be used as tools—the lower jaw bones of small gazelles, which could be used as cutting tools, and the humerus of antelope, which could be used as clubs—were overrepresented by a factor of ten. This led Dart to theorize that in australopithecenes—man’s direct ancestors—the use of weapons evolutionarily predated the development of large brains.[43]:41:20 Ardrey wrote an article about Dart’s theory for The Reporter. After receiving significant attention it was reprinted in Science Digest and led to The Smithsonian Institution contacting Dart.[5]:123–5

This trip would serve as the beginning of Ardrey’s renewed interest in the human sciences and the initiation of his groundbreaking work in paleoanthropology.


Ardrey spent the latter part of his life working as a scientist and science writer. (In 1969 he was also contracted by Universal to write a screenplay of Baroness Karen Blixen’s memoir Out of Africa, but it was never produced.[44]) While this scientific work at first appears disparate with his early career, later commentators have emphasized the continuity. In his New York Times obituary, Bayard Webster wrote, “A closer look at his dramas and his behavioral books disclose that he was writing about social conditions in both genres. One involved humans, the other concerned both humans and other animals. But the dramatic theme was the same: the difficulties humans and other animals have in dealing with each other, and the reasons for their actions.”[45]

Both the scientific content as well as the writing of Ardrey’s work was widely praised. The famed biologist and naturalist E. O. Wilson was one notable supporter of Ardrey’s work. Upon the publication of The Hunting Hypothesis he wrote:

In his excellent new book Robert Ardrey continues as the lyric poet of human evolution, capturing the Homeric quality of the subject that so many scientists by and large feel but are unable to put into words. His opinions, like those in his earlier works, are controversial but more open, squarely stated, and closer to the truth than the protests of his most scandalized critics.[46]

In his 1964 book The Analysis of Prose, William D. Templeman used African Genesis as his third lesson. The volume included analysis and questions from his students at the University of Southern California.[47]

A.J. Jacobs, who wrote the 2004 book The Know-It-All, about reading the entire Encyclopædia Britannica, asserts that a quote from African Genesis was the most profound thing he read while reading the Encyclopædia.[48]

Ardrey wrote for both popular and technical publications, but his scientific writing was mostly intended for the informed non-specialist reader in paleoanthropology, which encompasses anthropology, ethology, paleontology, zoology and[49] human evolution. His influential Nature of Man Series is composed of four books: African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961), The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations (1966), The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder (1970), and The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man (1976).

Along with Raymond Dart and Konrad Lorenz, Robert Ardrey became one of the three most famous proponents of the hunting hypothesis and the killer ape theory.[50]

Ardrey postulated that precursors of Australopithecus survived millions of years of drought in the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, as the savannah spread and the forests shrank, by adapting the hunting ways of carnivorous species. Changes in survival techniques and social organization gradually differentiated pre-humans from other primates. Concomitant changes in diet potentiated unique developments in the human brain.[50]

The killer ape theory posits that aggression, a vital factor in hunting prey for food, was a fundamental characteristic which distinguished prehuman ancestors from other primates. Ardrey also argued that aggression was therefore an inherited evolutionary trait still present in man.[51] He challenged the reigning blank-state hypothesis (similarly aligned with cultural determinism), then in currency among social scientists. The blank-state hypothesis was famously defended (and Ardrey was famously attacked) by Ashley Montagu.[9][45] This debate sparked a major controversy in anthropology and led to widespread popular interest in human origins. It also captured the popular attention and led to increased public interest in human origins. Ardrey’s ideas notably influenced Sam Peckinpah, to whom Strother Martin gave copies of two of Ardrey’s books,[52][53][54][55][56] as well as, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in the development of 2001: A Space Odyssey.[57][58][59][60][61]:44:14 More recently, according to archeology expert K. Kris Hirst, reviewing the Dawn of Humanity (2015 PBS film) documentary which describes, directly in the context of 2001, the 2015 studies of fossils of Homo naledi, the behavior of apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence of 2001 have been “proven false”, since contemporary evidence suggests that such supposedly violent apes were in fact vegetarians. [62][63] Though some of Ardrey’s theses on aggression have been contradicted, his popularization of the theory of African Genesis (as opposed to European or Asian Genesis) remains a major turning point in understanding the dawn of humanity.[61]:43:42

These themes have also been investigated in academia by, among others:

Konrad Lorenz: On Aggression (1966)

University of Chicago “Man the Hunter” symposium (1966): Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore, eds., Man the Hunter: Symposium on Man the Hunter, University of Chicago. Chicago: Aldine Publishing.

Sherwood Washburn and Chet Lancaster: Man the Hunter (1968). (Washburn’s students Lee and DeVore organised the 1966 Chicago conference.)

Craig Stanford: The Hunting Apes: Meat Eating and the Origins of Human Behavior, Princeton University Press (2001).

Erich Fromm: The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973)

Matt Cartmill: A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History (1996)

Robert Ardrey:

Robert Ardrey (October 16, 1908 – January 14, 1980) was a prolific American playwright, screenwriter and science writer. After a long Broadway and Hollywood career he returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences in the 1950s.[1][2]

As a playwright and screenwriter Ardrey received many accolades. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937,[3] won the inaugural Sidney Howard Memorial Prize in 1940, and in 1966 received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for his script for Khartoum.[4] His most famous play, Thunder Rock, is widely considered an international classic.[5]:63

Ardrey’s scientific work played a major role in overturning long-standing assumptions in the social sciences. In particular, African Genesis (1961) and The Territorial Imperative (1966), two of his most widely read works, were instrumental in changing scientific doctrine and increasing public awareness of evolutionary science.[6][7] His work was so popular that many prominent scientists cite it as inspiring them to enter their fields.[8][9]

Contents [hide]
1 Life
2 Theater and film career 2.1 Thunder Rock
2.2 Hollywood 1939-1946
2.3 Jeb
2.4 Hollywood 1946-1966
2.5 Khartoum

3 Africa
4 Paleoanthropology 4.1 Researchers

5 Books
6 Plays
7 Screenplays
8 Honors
9 See also
10 Additional resources
11 References
12 External links


Robert Ardrey was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Robert Leslie Ardrey and Marie Haswell. His father died in 1919 from pneumonia during the influenza epidemic and he was raised by his mother.[5]:2 He grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended the nearby University of Chicago, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.[3] While in attendance, he studied creative writing with Thornton Wilder, who would become his lifelong mentor.[3][5]:4[10]:12–3, 15

His first play, Star Spangled, opened on Broadway in 1935 and lasted only a few days, but resulted in the award of a Guggenheim Fellowship.[3] The award granted Ardrey the financial independence to focus on writing plays. Several of his subsequent plays, including Casey Jones, How to Get Tough About It, and his most famous play, Thunder Rock, were subsequently produced on Broadway.[3]

In 1938 he moved to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter for Metro Goldwyn Mayer,[3] where he would eventually become MGM’s highest paid writer.[11] There he wrote many screenplays, including those for adaptations such as The Three Musketeers[12] (1948, with Gene Kelly), Madame Bovary [13] (1949), The Secret Garden [14] (1949), and The Wonderful Country[15] (1959, with Robert Mitchum; The Wonderful Country also had a cameo from famed Negro Leagues pitcher Satchel Paige[16]). He also wrote original screenplays, including the screenplay for Khartoum (1966, directed by Basil Dearden, starring Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier) for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story, and Screenplay.[3][4]

During the 1950s Ardrey became increasingly disenchanted with Hollywood and what he saw as the growing role money had started to play in creative decisions.[17][18][19] At the same time and largely by accident, he renewed his interest in human origins and human behavior, which he had studied at the University of Chicago.[3] In the summer of 1956 he moved with his wife and two sons to Geneva. He spent the following years traveling in Southern and Eastern Africa, conducting research for what was to become his first book on the subject, African Genesis (1961), ultimately an international bestseller. Subsequently, he went on to write a total of four books in his widely read Nature of Man Series, including his best known book The Territorial Imperative (1966).[3]

In October 1960 he moved with his second wife to Trastevere, Rome, where they lived for 17 years. In 1977 they moved to a small town named Kalk Bay just outside Cape Town, South Africa.[3] He continued to publish influential works until his death on January 14, 1980. His ashes, along with those of his wife, are interred in the Holy Trinity Church overlooking False Bay.[3][5]:1

Theater and film career[edit]

After graduating from the University of Chicago, under the continuing mentorship of Thornton Wilder, Ardrey wrote a novel, several plays, and many short stories, all of which remained unpublished.[10]:15 It was Wilder’s rule that “A young author should not write for market until his style [has] ‘crystallized'”.[10]:14–15 Wilder and Ardrey agreed that this moment came with the writing of the play Star Spangled.

Star Spangled opened on Broadway in 1935. It was a comedy that brought to life the classic struggles of an immigrant family living on the South Side of Chicago. It received largely negative reviews and lasted only a few days. However it did catch the attention of notable playwright Sidney Howard, whom Ardrey claims was instrumental in the resulting award of a Guggenheim fellowship for promise as a young playwright.[3][10]:18 The award allowed Ardrey the financial independence to remain in Chicago and focus on writing plays.

While in Chicago Ardrey wrote two more plays. The first, Casey Jones, was a play about railroad men and their love for their machines. The second, How to Get Tough About It, Ardrey describes as “A proletarian love story of pleasant dimensions.”[10]:18 In 1938 Guthrie McClintic presented How to Get Tough About It and Elia Kazan directed Casey Jones.[10]:19[20] The plays opened ten days apart and were massive failures. In his preface to Plays of Three Decades Ardrey writes:

No author in Broadway memory had attained two such failures on a scale quite so grand on evenings quite so close together. Had they opened six months apart, none would have noticed. Coming as they did, I became a kind of upside-down white-headed boy, a figure thundering toward literary glory in reverse gear. Hollywood, incapable of resisting the colossal, bid lavishly for my services. And Samuel Goldwyn, buyer of none but the best, bought me.[10]:19

Ardrey signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and moved for the first time to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. He worked on several projects, including Samuel Goldwyn’s notorious boondoggle remake of Graustark, which was cancelled, and a western called The Cowboy and the Lady, from which he was dropped (though he later used most of the plot for his smash success Lady Takes A Chance).[5]:53–8 While in Los Angeles he would meet and work with Samuel Goldwyn, Clarence Brown, Pandro Berman, Garson Kanin, Gene Fowler, Lillian Hellman, Sidney Howard, and S.N. Behrman.[5]:53–60[10]:19

In 1938, however, he received word that his Broadway agent, Harold Freedman, had sold the film rights to his play How to Get Tough About It. Ardrey decided to use the opportunity to take time off to write a play. He travelled to Tucson where he married Helen Johnson with famed Hollywood director Garson Kanin as his best man. Following his wedding, he sent a note to Samuel Goldwyn which read: “Dear Mr. Goldwyn. I fear that I am wasting your money, and I’m sure you are wasting my time.”[5]:60 He moved with his new wife back to the east coast and set to work, first on a minor project which he would abandon, and then on the play that would become Thunder Rock.[5]:60[20” Encyclopedia Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ardrey


About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student

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