Yerkes National Primate Research Center

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The Yerkes National Primate Research Center located in Atlanta, Georgia, is owned by Emory University,[1] is a center of biomedical and behavioral research, is dedicated to improving human and animal health, and is the oldest of seven national primate facilities partially funded by the National Institutes of Health. It is known for its nationally and internationally recognized biomedical and behavioral studies with nonhuman primates by Emory University.

Its 25-acre (10 ha) Main Station contains most of the center's biomedical research laboratories. The center also includes the Living Links Center and the 117-acre (47 ha) Yerkes Field Station near Lawrenceville, Georgia.


The center was established in 1930 by Robert Yerkes, in Orange Park, Florida, associated then with Yale University. Yerkes was a pioneering primatologist who specialized in comparative psychology.

In 1965, it relocated to its present location[2] on the campus of Emory University.[3]

Satellite locations[edit]

The Field Station is a part of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, houses 3,400 animals, specializes in behavioral studies of primate social groups, and is located 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Atlanta[4] on 117 acres (47 ha) of wooded land.

The Living Links Center is a part of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and is run by primatologist Frans De Waal.[5] Located at the Yerkes Main Station on the Emory campus, work is also carried out at the Field Station.


Multidisciplinary medical research at the Yerkes research center is primarily aimed at development of medical treatments and vaccines. Research programs include cognitive development and decline, childhood visual defects, organ transplantation, the behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy and social behaviors of primates.[6] Yerkes researchers also are leading programs to better understand the aging process, pioneer organ transplant procedures and provide safer drugs to organ transplant recipients, determine the behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy, prevent early onset vision disorders and shed light on human behavioral evolution.[6][7] Researchers have had success creating transgenic rhesus macaque monkeys with Huntington's disease and hope to breed a second generation of macaques with the genetic disorder.[8]


Yerkes has long been the target of protest for its treatment of animals. This was especially true after the release of Frederick Wiseman's 1974 film Primate[9][10], which was shot at Yerkes and depicted primates undergoing surgical procedures, as well as a transcardial perfusion and brain extraction.

Yerkes' proposal to do AIDS-related research on endangered sooty mangabey monkeys drew opposition from numerous primatologists, including Jane Goodall.[11]

Yerkes Center research assistant Elizabeth Griffin[12][13] became the first work-related death in the center's history on December 10, 1997, due to herpes B virus.[14] Griffin apparently became infected after a fluid exposure to the eye which occurred while helping to move a caged rhesus macaque at the Yerkes Field Station. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ultimately fined the center $105,300 in 1998 after a 19-week investigation.[15] The event led to reforms in safety protocols for handling research primates.

On June 15, 2011, at the Field Station, personnel determined that Ep13, a non-infected female rhesus macaque, was missing.[16][17] On August 16, 2011, the search for Ep13 ended.


Name From To
Robert Yerkes
(Founder of Yerkes Center; PhD Harvard;
known for work in comparative psychology)
1930 1941
Karl Lashley
(PhD Johns Hopkins University in genetics;
psychologist and behaviorist;
remembered for his contributions to the study of learning and memory)
1941 1955
Henry Wieghorst Nissen[18][19]
(Professor of Psychobiology at Yale & Emory;
leading authority on the biology and psychology of primates)
1955 1958
Arthur J. Riopelle[20]
(doctorate in experimental psychology, primatologist)
1959 1962
Geoffrey H. Bourne
(University of Oxford DSc and PhD;
histochemistry and cell biology, primatology)
1962 1978
Frederick (Fred) A. King[21][22]
(main focus was the interaction between cognitive and limbic functions)
1978 1994
Thomas R. Insel[23]
(now director of National Institute of Mental Health)
1994 1999
Thomas P Gordon[24]
(became Head, Neuroscience Center)
1999 2002
Stuart Zola[25][26]
(one of the nation’s leading neuroscientists)
2002 2014
R. Paul Johnson, M.D.[27]
(former chairman of Division of Immunology and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School;
Board Certified in Internal Medicine with a Certification in Infectious Diseases;
research interests include identification of immune responses)
2014 present

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History - Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University". Emory University. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. ^ Google (7 July 2017). "Yerkes Center, 954 Gatewood Rd NE, Atlanta, Georgia" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Google. "2409 Collins Hill Rd, Lawrenceville, GA" (Map). Google Maps. Google.
  5. ^ Living Links Center. Emory University.
  6. ^ a b "Research". Emory University. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Human Nature and Evolution". Emory University. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  8. ^ Palmer, Jason (27 May 2009). "Glowing monkeys 'to aid research". BBC News.
  9. ^ Primate (1974) on IMDb
  10. ^ Primate
  11. ^ "Goodall opposes AIDS research on monkeys: Primate expert urges government to reject use of endangered animals". Associated Press. 22 June 2006.
  12. ^
  13. ^ A Drop of Virus From a Monkey Kills a Researcher in 6 Weeks, By RICK BRAGG, New York Times, December 14, 1997
  14. ^
  15. ^ 1998/May/ermay.4/5_4_98Yerkes.html
  16. ^
  17. ^ http://www.ajc. com/news/calls-come-in-about-985776.html
  18. ^ "Portraits of Pioneer in Psychology Volume III" by Donald A. Dewsbury
  19. ^ "HENRY WIEGHORST NISSEN" (PDF). National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  20. ^ "Arthur J. Riopelle (1920-2012)". National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  21. ^ "A Plea For the Chimps". The New York Times. 1987-06-21. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  22. ^ "Frederick King, PhD" (PDF). Emory University. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Thomas R. Insel reflects on his first year as director of the primate research center". Emory Magazine. 1995. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  24. ^ "Insel leaves Yerkes post to head neuroscience center".
  25. ^ "Stuart Zola Brings Passion and Candor to his Role as Director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center". Emory Magazine. 1995. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  26. ^ "Stuart Zola, PhD". Emory University. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  27. ^ "R. Paul Johnson, MD, Yerkes Director". Emory University. Retrieved 26 April 2019.

External links[edit]

  • - Yerkes National Primate Research Center (official homepage)
  • - 'Supporting Excellence in Research', Primate Freedom Project