Bard News & Events

Press Release


Darren O'Sullivan

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College's Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series will continue on Tuesday, November 27, with an illustrated presentation by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Her talk, "Maternal Love and Ambivalence in the Pleistocene, the 18th Century, and Right Now," will explore, from a historical and evolutionary perspective, the failure of some mothers to nurture their children. The lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Bertelsmann Campus Center Multipurpose Room. Refreshments will be served after the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Dr. Hrdy is an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis. Her talk at Bard will explore how human mothers, because they produce very slow-maturing offspring, have historically needed to factor in social support and assistance from others before committing themselves to lactation and a prolonged period of care for their children. Such situation-dependent maternal commitment has sometimes resulted in high levels of maternal abandonment.

Her lecture stems from her most recent book, Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, which the eminent biologist E.O. Wilson called "a brilliant, liberating book on a profoundly important subject." Mother Nature is an evolutionary analysis of maternity that uses literature, history, anthropology, developmental psychology, animal behavior, and Hrdy's own experiences as a mother to offer a radical new way of understanding how mothers act and why. The book examines the historical social pressures and customs surrounding infants and mothers, providing a provocative perspective on issues ranging from age-old tensions between the sexes to the tradeoffs faced by modern working mothers. In the end, Hrdy questions the belief—cherished by the western world and widely accepted in scientific circles—that mothers instinctively and automatically nurture their offspring.

Dr. Hrdy is a fellow of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is best known for her revolutionary and widely publicized research on infanticide in primates and her landmark book, The Woman that Never Evolved. She is also the author of Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction and Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives.

The Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series will continue in the spring 2002 semester. Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History will present "What Drives Evolution?" on Saturday, March 9, at 3:00 p.m. Paul Ewald of Amherst College will present "The Evolution of Infectious Disease" on Wednesday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m.

All lectures are free and open to the public and will be held in the Bertelsmann Campus Center Multipurpose Room. For more information about the Distinguished Scientist Lecture Series, call 845-758-7581.

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This event was last updated on 11-15-2001