What do neurologists, cattle and McDonald's have in common? They all owe a great deal to one woman, a renowned animal scientist born with autism, Temple Grandin. Though she didn't utter a word until close to her fourth birthday, substituting screams for phonemes, she splashed onto the stage of public awareness in 1995, thanks to the vivid, sensitive writing of the famed neurologist Oliver Sacks. Little was known about autism at the time except that people so afflicted appeared socially isolated, emotionally fragile and difficult to engage. But as with many psychological disorders, autism is a spectrum, and Temple, 62, is on one edge. Living on this edge has allowed her to be an extraordinary source of inspiration for autistic children, their parents — and all people. She is also a source of hope for another mammal: the cow. Using her unique window into the minds of animals, she has developed corrals for cattle that improve their quality of life by reducing stress. And though the fast-food industry continues to use cattle in its patties, it has come to appreciate the ethics and compassion of a Grandin burger.
Hauser is a professor of psychology and evolutionary biology at Harvard University