Dr. Frans de Waal, Primatologist, Has Died


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Dr. Frans de Waal, the primatologist who proved through his research that the cognitive abilities of other species not only rival those of humans but often surpass them, has died. At a time when scientists overwhelmingly dismissed theories in favor of animals’ sentience, he persisted. It would be difficult to overstate his contributions to our understanding of other animals’ remarkable intelligence and deep emotions.

Rhesus macaque in a tree

Dr. Frans de Waal Helped Prove the Great Emotional Capacity of Animals

De Waal studied how animals resolve conflicts, reconcile, and cooperate. He famously demonstrated their understanding of fair and equal treatment. He presented clear and compelling evidence that animals experience emotions ranging from joy and happiness to profound sadness and grief, along with empathy, jealousy, and resentment.

“I cannot name any emotion that is uniquely human.”

—Dr. Frans de Waal

De Waal changed not only the scientific community’s long-held biases but also those of people around the world. His 16 books were translated into 20 languages, his speaking tours sold out, and his TED Talks were viewed millions of times. Frans de Waal made the undeniably just argument that animals are entitled to be treated as thinking, feeling, and valuable individuals—a right that we humans are too eager to reserve for ourselves. The more we acknowledge how clever and capable other animals are, the fewer excuses we can make to harm them.

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