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Ardrey, Robert

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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(1908-1980) US playwright, screenwriter, speculative journalist and author known mainly for his theatrical work, initially for such plays as Thunder Rock (performed 1939; 1940), a ghost story set in a lighthouse on Lake Michigan, to which the protagonist has retreated because what seems to be a very Near Future world is too much for him; his ultimate gaining of resolve proved very popular in England as World War Two darkened; the play was filmed as Thunder Rock (1943), directed by Roy Boulting, and again for television (1985), directed by Mike Vardy. In his first novel, Worlds Beginning (1944), American society is benevolently rationalized, twenty turbulent years after the end of World War Two, by the quasi-socialist reorganizing of a vast chemical corporation so that workers share in profits and ownership, coincident with the firm's development of a plastic copper substitute. His second novel, The Brotherhood of Fear (1952), carries its protagonist from immurement in Konnr, a Near Future totalitarian land; pursued by a relentless police officer, he takes refuge in an Island Utopia, whose inhabitants he rallies to kill his pursuer.

Ardrey later became perhaps most famous for his series of sociobiological speculations, beginning with African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961), which argues that the constant Invention of weapons from primordial times (see Evolution; Apes as Human) until now uniquely and sufficiently distinguishes Homo sapiens from other species. The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animals Origins of Property and Nations (1966) weaves this conviction into claims that territoriality, though universal, is particularly dominant in humans. Though based on studies in primate ethology which have now been long discounted, both texts have proved imaginatively stimulating for authors of fiction. As the implications of his biological determinism sank in on advocates of Feminism and others, however, he seemed increasingly isolated as an ethological popularizer. [JC]

see also: Economics; Metaphysics.

Robert Ardrey

born Chicago, Illinois: 16 October 1908

died Kalk Bay, South Africa: 14 January 1980


novels and play

nonfiction (selected)


previous versions of this entry

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