Penny Patterson, Ph.D.
Founder, Director of Research
and President of the Board of Directors
At the present time, Dr. Penny
Patterson is responsible for the care and treatment of gorillas Koko and Ndumem, and for directing research in connection with, among other things, Project Koko.
received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from
Stanford University where, as a graduate student in 1972,
she began working with one-year-old Koko, a western lowland
gorilla, thus beginning the longest ongoing interspecies communication
study ever undertaken. For 30 years, Dr. Patterson has worked
with Koko, who has advanced further with sign language than
any nonhuman. Able to reveal her thoughts and feelings through
the use of 1,000 gestural words, Koko provides unique insight
into the mind of a gorilla.
In 1976, Dr. Patterson, Dr. Ronald Cohn, and the late Barbara
F. Hiller established the Gorilla Foundation to benefit gorillas
living in captivity and those struggling to survive in the
rapidly disappearing African rainforest. Dedicated to the
preservation, protection and propagation of gorillas and other
endangered primates, the Foundation disseminates information
about animal intelligence, gorilla behavior and psychobiology
through its website (www.gorilla.org), journal, and scientific
meetings and articles, and is currently developing a 70-acre
gorilla sanctuary on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
The author of more than 40 publications including The Education
of Koko with Eugene Linden, and the award-winning children’s
books, Koko’s Kitten and Koko’s Story, Dr. Patterson
has earned numerous awards and honors — including National
Geographic Society grants and the Rolex Award for Enterprise
— for her work with Koko and fellow gorillas, Michael
( Note: Psychology runs in the Patterson family: Penny's late father,
Dr. C.H. Patterson, who was a key supporter and source
of inspiration for Penny and TGF, was also a world-renowned
professor and author in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy — see his insightful website.