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Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris
Desmond Morris (1969).jpg
Desmond Morris (1969)
Born Desmond John Morris
(1928-01-24) 24 January 1928 (age 89)
Purton, Wiltshire, England
Occupation Zoologist and ethologist
Nationality British
Alma mater Dauntsey's School
Notable works The Naked Ape (1967)

Desmond John Morris (born 24 January 1928) is an English zoologist, ethologist and surrealist painter, as well as a popular author in human sociobiology. He is known for his 1967 book The Naked Ape, and for his television programmes such as Zoo Time.

Morris was born in Purton, Wiltshire to Marjorie (née Hunt) and the children's fiction author Harry Morris. In 1933 the Morrises moved to Swindon. He developed an interest in natural history and writing. He was educated at Dauntsey's School, a boarding school in Wiltshire.

In 1946, he joined the British Army for two years of national service, becoming a lecturer in fine arts at the Chiseldon Army College. After being demobilised in 1948, he held his first one-man show of his own paintings at the Swindon Arts Centre, and studied zoology at the University of Birmingham. In 1951 he began a doctorate at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford in animal behaviour. In 1954, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy for his work on the reproductive behaviour of the ten-spined stickleback.

Morris stayed at Oxford, researching the reproductive behaviour of birds. He moved to London in 1956, studying the picture-making abilities of apes. In 1957 he organised an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, showing paintings and drawings composed by chimpanzees. In 1958 he co-organised an exhibition, The Lost Image, which compared pictures by infants, human adults, and apes, at the Royal Festival Hall in London. In 1967 he spent a year as executive director of the London Institute of Contemporary Arts.



  • The Biology of Art (1963) – a look at the paintings of primates and their relation to human art
  • The Big Cats (1965) – part of The Bodley Head Natural Science Picture Books, looking at the habits of the five Big Cats.
  • The Mammals: A Guide to the Living Species (1965) – a comprehensive listing of all mammal genera, all non-rodent non-bat species, and additional information on select species.
  • The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal (1967) – a look at the humanity's animalistic qualities and its similarity with other apes. Reprinted many times and in many languages, it continues to be a best-seller.
  • The Human Zoo (1969) – a continuation of the previous book, analysing human behaviour in big modern societies and their resemblance to animal behaviour in captivity.
  • Intimate Behaviour (1971) – A study of the human side of intimate behaviour, examining how natural selection shaped human physical contact.
  • Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviour (1978)
  • Gestures: Their Origin and Distribution (1979)
  • Animal Days (1979) – Autobiographical
  • The Soccer Tribe (1981)
  • Pocket Guide to Manwatching (1982)
  • Inrock (1983)
  • Bodywatching – A Field Guide to the Human Species (1985) – Hundreds of photos analyzing the human body.
  • Catwatching: & Cat Lore (1986) – a study of cats.
  • Dogwatching (1986) – a study of "man's best friend".
  • Horsewatching (1989) – subtitled "Why does a horse whinny and everything else you ever wanted to know"
  • Animalwatching (1990)
  • Babywatching (1991)
  • Bodytalk (1994)
  • The Human Animal (1994) – book and BBC documentary TV series
  • The Human Sexes (1997) – Discovery/BBC documentary TV series
  • Cat World: A Feline Encyclopedia (1997)
  • The Naked Eye (2001)
  • Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1,000 Dog Breeds (2001)
  • Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language (2002)
  • The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body (2004)
  • Linguaggio muto (Dumb language) (2004)
  • The Nature of Happiness (2004)
  • Watching (2006)
  • The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body (2008)
  • Baby: A Portrait of the First Two Years of Life (2008)
  • Planet Ape (2009)
  • Owl (2009) – Part of the Reaktion Books Animal series
  • Monkey (2013) – Part of the Reaktion Books Animal series
  • Leopard (2014) – Part of the Reaktion Books Animal series
  • Bison (2015) – Part of the Reaktion Books Animal series
  • Zootime (Weekly, 1956–67)
  • Life (1965–67)
  • The Human Race (1982)
  • The Animals Roadshow (1987–89)
  • The Animal Contract (1989)
  • Animal Country (1991–96)
  • The Human Animal (1994)
  • The Human Sexes (1997)
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