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Dr. "Penny" Patterson (b. February 13 1947, in Chicago, Illinoismarker) is an American researcher who claims to have taught a modified form of American Sign Language which she calls "Gorilla Sign Language" or, GSL to a gorilla named Koko.

Francine is the second oldest of seven children and daughter of C.H. Patterson, a professor of psychology and Frances Spano Patterson. She and her family moved to Edina, Minnesotamarker when she was young, and then to Urbana, Illinoismarker. Her mother died of cancer when Penny was a freshman in college, and the youngest of her siblings was just five years old. This triggered her interest in developmental psychology, a theme which pervaded much of her later work.

Dr. Patterson earned her bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignmarker in 1970. She attained her Ph.D. in 1979 from Stanford Universitymarker, with her dissertation Linguistic Capabilities of a Lowland Gorilla on teaching sign language to Koko and Michael, another Lowland Gorilla, who died in 2000.

Currently Francine serves as the President and Research Director of The Gorilla Foundation. The foundation was founded with her long time research colleague Dr. Ronald Cohn in 1978 using monetary support from a Rolex Award. The Gorilla Foundation has been trying to move from its current home in Woodside, Californiamarker to Maui, Hawaiimarker1.

Dr. Patterson is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara Universitymarker and a member of the Board of Consultants at the Center for Cross Cultural Communication in Washington, D.C.marker. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Gorilla journal.

Dr. Patterson is also an author of non-fiction works, including The Education of Koko, Koko's Kitten, Koko-Love!: Conversations With a Signing Gorilla, and Koko's Story. All of these books deal with her personal experiences with signing gorillas.

Patterson and her work with Koko are the subject of Barbet Schroeder's 1978 feature-length documentary Koko: A Talking Gorilla.

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