In the 70s, Columbia University began an extended study on language acquisition by having a family raise a baby Chimpanzee. He was given the name Nim Chimpsky, a play on the name of the world famous linguist Noam Chomsky whose theory of language was being tested with their research. The idea was to teach Nim sign language and to test the thesis put forward by Chomsky that human language was a distinctly human faculty, hardwired into the brain from birth.

The story that follows is the classic tale of unfettered hope dashed by the disappointment of reality. Nim was able to sign but never developed the ability to build syntactic structures or compose anything resembling fully realized language. Despite the deepest wishes of everyone involved, and the love and affection that few human children experience, Nim was unable to transcend his own violent, chimpanzee nature.

The story illustrates a simple point that everyone intuitively understands—Nature does not kneel before our good intentions