Why We Are, What We Are, Where We Are | WBEZ
Skip to main content


Why We Are, What We Are, Where We Are

Why do both humans and monkeys from different regions differ anatomically and physiologically? Why do we find more monkey species and human cultures in the tropics than outside of the tropics? Why did California have many more Native American cultures than Illinois? Can what we know of monkeys answer this question? If distant islands are more difficult to get to, why do we not find fewer monkey species or human cultures on more distant islands? Are humans merely monkeys?

Since Charles Darwin’s 1859 publication of On the Origins of the Species, questions of distribution have fascinated scientists and anthropologists alike. Dr. Alexander Harcourt, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Davis, discusses the principles underlying the distribution, abundance, and appearance of animals which can also explain human biological diversity, global distribution, and cultural variation. He sheds light on the rich and complex ways in which our anatomy, physiology, and cultural diversity vary from region to region.

Born in Kenya, Dr. Harcourt received degrees from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. After many years studying the behavior and ecology of gorillas, Harcourt’s research moved to the evolutionary biology of reproduction and cooperation, and now his interests have turned to biogeography, including the biogeography of humans. His field research has taken him to the forests of Uganda, Rwanda, Zaire, and southeastern Nigeria.
Dr. Harcourt serves on the Scientific Executive Committee of The Leakey Foundation.


Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.