Top critical review
What a Disappointment
Reviewed in the United States on August 6, 2004
Blum's biography of Harlow does an excellent job of examining the man and the scientist, "warts and all." Yes, it's unflinching in its descriptions of the experiments performed on macaques showing the effects of maternal deprivation; yes, it's unflinching on showing the psychology of the man who performed these experiments and the sad effects his psychological predispositions had on his personal life. Poor monkeys! Poor Harlow! But never fear; Blum is here to provide us with reassurance: it all had to be that way - really, it did. True, the experiments sound really nasty; but hey, that's just how things were done in those days. Really, it's all okay, in the long run, because now, even though we still musn't question the basic scientific premises regarding the necessity of animal research, at least we don't have to perform those particular nasty experiments anymore; and really - really - Harlow was, in his own perverted way, something of a hero. Even animal rights activists have cause to be thankful to him: because of him, we now have a convenient enemy to vilify, not to mention that desperately needed scientific proof positive that monkeys are more complex than we once believed, and hence deserve a little extra consideration. Thank you, Harry Harlow. Thank you, Deborah Blum, for puffing him back up again after the deflated view you left us with in The Monkey Wars. See people? He really wasn't such a bad guy after all. All you have to do is look at him in just the right way. . . .