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Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson (b. February 13 1947, in Chicago, Illinois) is a researcher who has taught a modified form of American Sign Language which she calls "Gorilla Sign Language" or, GSL to a gorilla named Koko.
Francine is the second oldest of seven children and daughter of C.H. Patterson, a professor of psychology and Frances Spano Patterson. She and her family moved to Edina, Minnesota when she was young, and then to Urbana, Illinois. Her mother died of cancer when Penny was a freshman in college, and the youngest of her siblings was just five years old. This triggered her interest in developmental psychology, a theme which pervaded much of her later work.
Dr. Patterson earned her bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1970. She attained her Ph.D. in 1979 from Stanford University, with her dissertation Linguistic Capabilities of a Lowland Gorilla on teaching sign language to Koko and Michael, another Lowland Gorilla, who died in 2000.
Currently Francine serves as the President and Research Director of The Gorilla Foundation. The foundation was founded with her long time research colleague Dr. Ronald Cohn in 1978 using monetary support from a Rolex Award. The Gorilla Foundation is trying to move from its current home in Woodside, California to a more a tropical habitat in Maui, Hawaii to better facilitate gorilla research.
Dr. Patterson is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University and a member of the Board of Consultants at the Center for Cross Cultural Communication in Washington, D.C.. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Gorilla journal.
Dr. Patterson is also a author of non-fiction works, including The Education of Koko, Koko's Kitten, Koko-Love!: Conversations With a Signing Gorilla, and Koko's Story. All of these books deal with her personal experiences with signing gorillas.
- The Gorilla Foundation
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign article
- Koko: A Talking Gorilla at Criterion Collection
- 1947 births
- Living people
- Developmental psychology
- Stanford University alumni
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumni
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