Nim Chimpsky

Facts about Nim Chimpsky

Nim Chimpsky died at 26 years old
Best known as: The language-learning chimp named for Noam Chomsky


Nim Chimpsky Biography

The chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky was the subject of a landmark experiment in teaching sign language to apes.

Named in a humorous salute to language theorist Noam Chomsky, Nim Chimpsky was born in a research facility in Oklahoma but raised in a human-like setting and taught American Sign Language as if he were a human child. Nim learned to use basic signs but, it was generally agreed, did not develop complex language skills. In this result he was similar to other famous language-learning apes, including Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimp.

After nearly five years, the experiment was ended after Nim’s naturally wild ways became too much for the researchers. (Among other things, he bit a researcher on the face, requiring dozens of stitches.) Nim was later sold to a medical lab to be the subject of experiments, but through the intervention of activist Cleveland Amory, he was instead sent to retirement at a Texas wildlife sanctuary. His story was told in a 2011 documentary, Project Nim.

Extra credit

Nim Chimpsky later also became the name of a popular Welsh band.


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