The legendary Washoe died this week:
Washoe, a female chimpanzee believed to be the first non-human to acquire human language, has died of natural causes at the research institute where she was kept.
I met Washoe when I was studying at Central Washington University and was lucky enough to take a linguistics course with Dr. Roger Fouts.
Frankly, Washoe intimidated the hell out of me. She was queen of the domain, and we students knew it. We were warned not to stare when we met the chimps, as it’s considered a threatening gesture. We crowded into the room, desperately trying not to seem like we’re staring, as Washoe proceeded to stare intently, and fixedly, at us during the entire visit. However, when you looked in her eyes, you didn’t see hostility. You did see what I can only describe as a wicked sense of humor. She was wonderful.
Rest in peace, old girl.