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Science and nature writer, biologist, neuroscientist, and stress expert Robert Sapolsky will speak on “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: Stress, Disease, and Coping” 8 p.m. today at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Free and open to the public, the talk is the 2004-05 Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Visiting Lecture.

Sapolsky will meet with neuroscience students for a 4 p.m. “conversation hour” hosted by Wendy Hill, Rappolt Professor of Psychology, and Elaine Reynolds, associate professor of biology and chair of neuroscience. He also will speak with a neuroscience class taught by Reynolds Thursday morning.

“One of the finest natural history writers around,” according to The New York Times, Sapolsky has divided his time between fieldwork with baboons and highly technical neurological research in the laboratory for more than 25 years. As a result, he can effortlessly move from a discussion of pecking orders in primate societies (human and baboon) to an explanation of how neurotransmitters work during stress.

His ability to communicate scientific ideas with humor has led The New York Times to suggest, “If you crossed Jane Goodall with a borscht-belt comedian, she might have written a book like A Primate’s Memoir,” Sapolsky’s account of his early years as a field biologist that won the 2001 Bay Area Book Reviewers Award in nonfiction. In another book, The Trouble with Testosterone, and in articles for several publications, including Discover and The New Yorker, Sapolsky combines deep scientific insight with laughter and humanity.

Sapolsky is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, and a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya. He lectures widely on topics as diverse as stress and stress-related diseases, baboons, the biology of human individuality, the biology of religious belief, the biology of memory, schizophrenia, depression, aggression, and Alzheimer’s disease. A new collection of his essays, Monkeyluv and Other Essays on our Lives as Animals, will be published this fall.

Recent speakers in the Jones Visiting Lecture series include multi-disciplinary creative artist Laurie Anderson in 2003-04 and award-winning political essayist and social commentator Barbara Ehrenreich in 2002-03. Other past lecturers include former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky, poet Derek Walcott, award-winning literary classics translator Robert Fagles, scientist Steven Pinker, composer Gunther Schuller, novelist Ursula LeGuin, and black studies scholar Henry Lewis Gates.

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