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Robert Ardrey (b. October 16, 1908, Chicago, Illinois—d. January 14, 1980, South Africa) was an American playwright and screenwriter who returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences in the 1950s.
African Genesis (1961) and The Territorial Imperative, two of Robert Ardrey's most widely read works, as well as Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape (1967), were key elements in the public discourse of the 1960s which challenged earlier anthropological assumptions. Ardrey's ideas notably influenced Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in the development of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Sam Peckinpah, to whom Strother Martin gave copies of two of Ardrey's books.
As a science writer for the informed non-specialist reader in paleoanthropology, which encompasses anthropology, ethology, paleontology and human evolution, Robert Ardrey was among the proponents of the hunting hypothesis and the killer ape theory.
Ardrey postulated that precursors of Australopithecus survived millions of years of drought in the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, as the savannah spread and the forests shrank, by adapting the hunting ways of carnivorous species. Changes in survival techniques and social organisation gradually differentiated pre-humans from other primates. Concomitant changes in diet potentiated unique developments in the human brain.
These themes have also been investigated in academia by, among others:
Some of the scientists whose research particularly informed Robert Ardrey's scientific investigations, and with several of whom Ardrey consulted at length while developing his four major works in Africa from the 1940s through the 1970s, include:
Robert Ardrey was the son of Robert Leslie Ardrey, an editor and publisher, and the former Marie Haswell. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago, where his mentor was Thornton Wilder. Ardrey was married to Helen Johnson, whom he met at the University, from 1938 until they divorced in 1960. They had two sons, Ross and Daniel. Ardrey married the South African stage actress Berdine Grunewald, who later illustrated his books, in 1960.
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