McGrew, W.C. 1944- (William Clement McGrew)
McGrew, W.C. 1944- (William Clement McGrew)
Born 1944. Education: Oxford University, D.Phil., 1970; University of Stirling, Ph.D., 1990.
Office—Department of Zoology, Miami University, 501 E. High St., Oxford, OH 45056. E-mail—[email protected]
Miami University, Oxford, OH, professor.
An Ethological Study of Children's Behavior, Academic Press (New York, NY), 1972.
(Editor, with Richard W. Wrangham, Frans B.M. de Waal, and Paul G. Heltne) Chimpanzee Cultures, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
(As William C. McGrew; editor, with Linda F. Marchant and Toshisada Nishida) Great Ape Societies, foreword by Jane Goodall, afterword by Junichiro Itani, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
The Cultured Chimpanzee: Reflections on Cultural Primatology, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Behavioral ecologist W.C. McGrew specializes in the ethological study of nonhuman primates. He is also a biological anthropologist with interests in the evolution of material culture and in the evolutionary analyses of human behavior. His research has been carried out both in the field, primarily with chimpanzees in Africa, and with captive primates. McGrew's graduate students are involved with field primatology, including in Guinea and Senegal, West Africa, where McGrew's field research focuses on the behavioral ecology of chimpanzees.
McGrew's Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution was published approximately thirty years after Jane Goodall first observed the use of tools by chimpanzees living in their natural state. In this volume McGrew studies tool-making and tool-use behaviors and social customs among the chimpanzees. He notes observations of these activities as they apply to food gathering, by both sexes. In his discussion of chimpanzee ethnography, McGrew observes that populations, even when they are geographically close, do not share many of the same behaviors. Elisabetta Visalberghi wrote in a Science review: "The book, which masterfully integrates primatology and (paleo) anthropology, scrutinizes diet, food acquisition and processing, and other aspects of chimpanzees' daily life and compares their behaviors with those of other ape species and living hunter-gatherer societies (a point-by-point parallel is drawn between Tanzanian chimpanzees and Tasmanian hunter-gatherer humans, as they live in ecologically similar environments) to gain insight into hominization."
McGrew edited Chimpanzee Cultures with Richard W. Wrangham, Frans B.M. de Waal, and Paul G. Heltne. The first section of the book is about natural populations. Chapters cover such topics as the use of tools and hunting. In reviewing the book in Science, Dorothy L. Cheney commented that "the book might have been conceptually more interesting if the editors had made more effort to link the chapters and discuss, for example, how grooming relationships and hunting behavior might be related." The extent to which chimpanzees model their behavior after that of others is discussed in detail, and it is noted that little has been learned in the study of, for example, the use of tools. Contributor Michael Tomasello writes that the chimpanzees seem to learn the function of a tool more quickly when they are able to observe others more skilled than they are. Tomasello comes to the conclusion that learning by a chimpanzee is probably often complemented by social enhancement and emulation, but he feels that these are not adequate in creating and maintaining rituals, rules, and traditions. Cheney wrote: "Tomasello's chapter raises several issues that are of crucial significance to any discussion of the evolution of culture, though none of them has yet been investigated in any detail. First, how essential is mental state attribution to definitions of culture? Is it possible to have culture in the absence of imitation or teaching? In his review of tool use in the wild, McGrew argues that much human knowledge is transmitted without explicit imitation or teaching. This is undoubtedly true. In no human culture, however, is imitation or teaching completely absent."
The volume also studies the greater problem-solving skills of chimpanzees who have had contact with humans, including regarding language-training. It is noted that some chimpanzees acquire a limited ability to employ human speech, and the question is raised concerning how that impacts their communication with other chimpanzees who have not been exposed to human speech. Cheney concluded by describing Chimpanzee Cultures as "a volume rich in new and valuable data."
McGrew also edited, with Linda F. Marchant and Toshisada Nishida, Great Ape Societies, which American Scientist reviewer Russell H. Tuttle felt "stands at the top of the list of recent collections of scientific papers on pongid apes." The work is based on a conference supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Individual chapters are dedicated to orangutans, bonobos, and gorillas, the latter being the subject of four chapters. Tuttle noted that although the majority of contributors are North American, European, or Japanese, there are writers from the Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). "A major challenge for global conservational primatology in the new millennium is to have more studies authored principally by scientists from the countries that are graced with apes and other nonhuman primates," Tuttle concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, September, 1994, Deborah J. Overdorff, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution, p. 693.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, July, 1993, Barbara J. King, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 393; October, 1995, Melissa Remis, review of Chimpanzee Cultures, p. 236; May, 1998, Michele Goldsmith, review of Great Ape Societies, p. 103.
American Scientist, January 1, 1998, Russell H. Tuttle, review of Great Ape Societies, p. 90.
Animal Behaviour, February, 1996, James R. Anderson, review of Chimpanzee Cultures, p. 485.
Choice, September, 1993, E. Delson, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 158; June, 2005, R.A. Delgado, review of The Cultured Chimpanzee: Reflections on Cultural Primatology, p. 1846.
Endeavour, March, 1997, Margo Wilson, review of Great Ape Societies, p. 47.
Nature, January 21, 1993, R.I.M. Dunbar, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 217; March 3, 2005, review of The Cultured Chimpanzee, p. 21.
New Scientist, December 5, 1992, Sanjida O'Connell, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 42; January 28, 1995, Sanjida O'Connell, review of Chimpanzee Cultures, p. 44.
Quarterly Review of Biology, September, 1994, Richard G. Klein, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 428; September, 1995, Suzanne E. MacDonald, review of Chimpanzee Cultures, p. 358; September, 2005, Dora Biro, review of The Cultured Chimpanzee, p. 368.
Science, September 24, 1993, Elisabetta Visalberghi, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 1754; February 10, 1995, Dorothy L. Cheney, review of Chimpanzee Cultures, p. 909.
Scientific American, June, 1993, Philip Morrison, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 148.
Times Higher Education Supplement, May 20, 1994, Caroline Ross, review of Chimpanzee Material Culture, p. 24; June 16, 1995, Thomas Sambrook, review of Chimpanzee Cultures, p. 27.
Miami University Web site,http://www.miami.muohio.edu/ (February 6, 2008), short profile on W.C. McGrew.