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Alison Jolly
Alison Bishop

(1937-05-09)May 9, 1937
Ithaca, New York, United States
Died February 6, 2014(2014-02-06) (aged 76)
Lewes, East Sussex, England
Nationality American
Known for Lemur biological studies
Richard Jolly (m. 1964–2014)
Children 4
Scientific career
Fields primatology

Alison Jolly (May 9, 1937 – February 6, 2014) was a primatologist, known for her studies of lemur biology. She wrote several books for both popular and scientific audiences and conducted extensive fieldwork on Lemurs in Madagascar, primarily at the Berenty Reserve, a small private reserve of gallery forest set in the semi-arid spiny desert area in the far south of Madagascar.


Born Alison Bishop in Ithaca, New York, she held a BA from Cornell University, and a PhD from Yale University; she had been a researcher at the New York Zoological Society, Cambridge University, University of Sussex, Rockefeller University, and Princeton University. In 1998 she was made Officer of the National Order of Madagascar (Officier de l'Ordre National, Madagascar). At the time of her death she was a Visiting Scientist at the University of Sussex.

Under her maiden name, she first published "Control of the Hand in Lower Primates" in 1962. Jolly began studying lemur behavior at Berenty in 1963 and was first to propose female dominance in a primate society. She encouraged field studies that contributed to knowledge about Malagasy wildlife and advised many researchers; she briefed Jane Wilson-Howarth and colleagues before their first expedition to Madagascar in 1981. Since 1990 Jolly had returned for every birthing season to carry out research assisted by student volunteers. She focused on ring-tailed lemur demography, ranging, and especially inter-troop and territorial behavior, in the context of the fivefold difference in population density from front to back of the reserve.

Her scientific books include Lemur Behavior: A Madagascar Field Study, and The Evolution of Primate Behavior', Her non-technical works include Madagascar: A World Out of Time and Lords & Lemurs: Mad Scientists, Kings With Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar. She also wrote numerous articles for consumer magazines and scientific journals.

Jolly was the author of two series of children's books—The Ako Books and The Fiddle Stories.


Jolly's Mouse Lemur area
Jolly's Mouse Lemur area

In June 2006, a new species of mouse lemur, Microcebus jollyae, was named in Jolly's honor.

Personal life

The daughter of the artist Alison Mason Kingsbury and the scholar and poet Morris Bishop, in 1963 Alison Jolly married Richard Jolly, the development economist. She died at home in Lewes, East Sussex, in February 2014 at the age of 76. She is survived by her husband and their four children.

Children's books

  • Ny aiay Ako (Ako the Aye-Aye), 2005
  • Bitika the Mouselemur, (2012)
  • Tik-Tik the Ringtailed Lemur, (2012)
  • Bounce the White Sifaka, (2012)
  • Furry and Fuzzy the Red Ruffed Lemur Twin, (2012)
  • No-Song the Indri, (2012)
  • Fiddle and the See-Throughs, (2013)
  • Fiddle and the Flint-Boy, (2013)
  • Fiddle and the Headless Horseman, (2013)
  • Fiddle and the Falling Tower, (2013)
  • Fiddle and the Smugglers, (2013)
  • Fiddle and the Fires, (2013)
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