It's one of the iconic images in psychology. Two "surrogate" primate mothers sit side by side. One is made of chicken wire with a milk bottle sticking out of the torso. The other, milkless, is swathed in terry cloth. And there is the infant rhesus monkey, clinging like mad, squeezing every bit of comfort and attachment it can out of the cloth mother.
The work was revolutionary: it overturned remarkably damaging dogma about love and attachment in the 1940s and 1950s, and it was carried out by a contrarian psychologist with a troubled personal life, one in ironic contrast to what his science was demonstrating. In her 1994 book, The Monkey Wars, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum superbly balanced opposing views of the incendiary issue of primate vivisection. In Love at Goon Park, Blum does an equally skillful job balancing the pictures of that psychologist, Harry Harlow, as troubled soul and brutal abuser of his experimental subjects versus helper of humankind through brilliant science.
This article was originally published with the title The Loveless Man.