Facts about Washoe
One of the world’s most famous chimpanzees, Washoe was the subject of an early attempt to teach human sign language to apes. University of Reno scientists Beatrix and Allen Gardner acquired Washoe as an infant, then spent four years trying to teach her American Sign Language. The experiments were later continued by Roger and Deborah Fouts, and Washoe eventually developed a vocabulary of over 200 different signs. While scientists disagreed on the precise nature of Washoe’s skills, she became famous as the first chimp to acquire human sign language. She died in 2007 at Central Washington University, where the Foutses had based their research operations since 1980. Washoe is the topic of Roger Fouts’s 1997 book Next of Kin.