BARBARA J. KING is emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary and a freelance science writer. The author of six books including How Animals Grieve, Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat, and Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion, she focuses on animal emotion and cognition, the ethics of our relating with animals, and the evolution of culture, language, and religion. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, NPR, Aeon, and Undark. Barbara is a frequent media guest on radio and TV shows, and has enjoyed doing science outreach at places like the 92nd St Y and the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange “science speed dating” night.

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Barbara J. King


More About Barbara

Barbara J. King is emerita professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she taught biological anthropology for 28 years, and now is a full-time freelance science writer and speaker. Barbara’s primary focus is how the science of animal thinking and feeling can be used to understand and advocate for wild, companion, and farmed animals. She is also keenly interested in, and writes and speaks about, the evolution of religion. In this work, Barbara suggest that the building blocks of what later became human religiosity are visible in the behavior of some nonhuman animals and early human ancestors.

Barbara’s newest book, published in 2017, is Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat. Her previous book How Animals Grieve from 2013 has been translated or is being translated into Japanese, Portuguese, French (winning a book prize), Hebrew, Turkish, and Polish.  For six years (fall 2011 through spring 2018) she contributed weekly to National Public Radio’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog, and her work has also appeared in Scientific American, Aeon, and Undark magazines. She writes regularly about books for the TLS and the Washington Post, and is a frequent guest on media shows that have included the Diane Rehm radio show and National Geographic TV. She enjoys doing science outreach at places like the 92nd St. Y and the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange “science speed dating” night.

Barbara is active on Twitter @bjkingape where she discusses science, animals, books, and now and then, photographs of her (numerous) rescued cats.

Selected Awards & Recognition


Selected by National Academy of Sciences’ “Science and Entertainment Exchange” program to participate in “science speed dating night,” Brooklyn, New York


Book prize, France, Le chagrin des animaux: Prix 30 Million d’Amis “Essai” (for translation of How Animals Grieve)


Scientific American article ‘When Animals Mourn’ chosen for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 (ed. Deborah Blum, October 2014 publication)


Named Chancellor Professor of Anthropology, College of William and Mary (through retirement in 2015, when the designation shifted to Emerita Professor of Anthropology)


Evolving God named ‘Top Ten Religion Book of 2007,’ American Library Association


Guggenheim Fellowship (Guggenheim Foundation)


Selected by The Teaching Company to create and teach 12-lecture course “Primate Roots of Human Behavior” (released December 2001) and 24-lecture course “Biological Anthropology” (November 2002)


Named University Professor for Teaching Excellence, William and Mary


Outstanding Faculty Award, State Council for Higher Education, Virginia


Weatherhead Predoctoral Fellowship, School of American Research (9 months’ residence in support of dissertation-writing)


National Science Foundation doctoral dissertation improvement award, $10,000, for research on learning in wild baboons, Amboseli National Park, Kenya