Skip to content
  • Video
  • 5 mins

OU on the BBC: A History of Ideas - Humans, apes and Carl Linnaeus

Updated Thursday, 15th January 2015

Historian Simon Schaffer looks at apes and evolution to explore how human we are - and  our animation looks at cultural transmission.

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

Simon Schaffer is interested in the human species in general and one member of it in particular. Carl Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist and zoologist who set out the basic structure of how we name and understand life on earth. In doing so he broached the thorny question of where humans should sit among the species of the earth. A hundred years before Darwin he correctly placed us among the apes.
Simon examines that relationship to see the things that mark our similarities and our differences. Simon comes face to face with 'Jock', an adult Gorilla at Bristol Zoo and talks to Professor Robert Foley about human evolution. He also sees how Linnaeus' ideas were used to support racial science. After all if humans were more like apes perhaps some humans were more like apes than others.







Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?