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Desmond John Morris (born 24 January 1928, Purtonmarker, north Wiltshiremarker) is a British zoologist and ethologist, but is also known as a surrealist painter and popular author.


Morris was educated at Dauntsey's Schoolmarker, an independent school in West Lavington, Wiltshiremarker. After military service, he attended the University of Birminghammarker where he graduated in 1951 with a First Class Honours Degree in Zoology. In 1954, he was awarded a D.Phil. from Oxford Universitymarker for his thesis on the Reproductive Behaviour of the Ten-spined Stickleback, supervised by Nobel Laureate Niko Tinbergen. He was employed by the Zoological Society of London as Curator of Mammals at the London Zoomarker, eventually leaving in 1966 in frustration about stagnation at the zoo.

He is sometimes wrongly stated to be a relative of Welsh entertainer Johnny Morris, best remembered for presenting the BBC television series Animal Magic, but this is not the case. [911]

In the media

Morris first came to public attention in the 1950s as a presenter of the ITV television programme Zoo Time, but achieved world-wide fame in 1967 with his book The Naked Ape. The book is an unabashed look at the human species, notable for its focus on humanity's animal-like qualities and our similarity with apes, and for explaining human behaviour as largely evolved to meet the challenges of prehistoric life as a hunter-gatherer. Reprinted many times and in many languages, it continues to be a best-seller.

His later studies, books and television shows have continued this focus on human behaviour, explained from a bluntly zoological point of view. This approach itself, and his specific conclusions, have often attracted controversy.


Painting by Congo.
In addition to his scientific pursuits, he is a surrealist artist. His work has been exhibited alongside works by Spanish painter Joan Miró and contributed significantly to the British Surrealist movement. He had his first solo show in 1948, and has shown regularly since then. In 1957, he curated an exhibition of chimpanzee paintings and drawings at the Institute of Contemporary Artsmarker, London, including paintings by a young chimpanzee called Congo.

Film adviser

Morris oversaw the creation of the gestural and body language for the Paleolithic human characters in the 1981 film Quest for Fire.

See also


  • The Biology of Art (1963) - a look at the paintings of primates and their relation to human art
  • The Mammals: A Guide to the Living Species (1965) — a comprehensive and compelling listing of all mammal genera, all non-rodent non-bat species, and additional information on select species.
  • The Naked Ape (1967) — an unabashed look at the human species. The book is notable for its focus on humanity's animal-like qualities and our similarity with 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) — this book examines and analyses any physical contact acted out by human animals. From clapping, to having a hair cut, to hand jive, to patting on the back, to hugging, to babe suckling, to copulation...
  • Manwatching (1977), reprinted as Peoplewatching (2002)
  • 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 from hair down to the feet.
  • Catwatching (1986) — a study of one of the most popular of household pets across the centuries.
  • Dogwatching (1986) — an in-depth 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)
  • The Human Animal (1994) — book and BBC documentary TV series
  • Cat World: A Feline Encyclopedia (1997)
  • The Naked Eye (2001)
  • Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1000 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)
  • Watching (2006)
  • The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body (2008)



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