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Temple Grandin

Birthdate: (67)
Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk, MA, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Richard McCurdy Grandin and Anna Eustacia Purves

Occupation: Autistic rights and animal rights activist
Managed by: <private>
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Temple Grandin

I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life, and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.

—Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947) is an American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, autistic activist, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. She also created the "hug box", a device to calm autistic children. The subject of an award-winning biographical film, Temple Grandin, in 2010 she was listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the "Heroes" category.

Early life and education

Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Richard Grandin and Eustacia Cutler. She was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 in 1949. Diagnosed and labeled with brain damage, at that early age she was placed in a structured nursery school with what she considers to have been good teachers. Grandin's mother spoke to a doctor who suggested speech therapy. She hired a nanny who spent hours playing turn-taking games with Grandin and her sister.

Grandin suffered from delayed speech development, as she began talking at the age of four (developmental guidelines anticipate a vocabulary of eight to ten words by eighteen months of age). She considers herself lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards. However, due to her poor conversational skills, Grandin has said that middle and high school were the most unpleasant times of her life. She was the "nerdy kid" whom everyone ridiculed. At times, while she walked down the hallways, her fellow students would taunt her by saying "tape recorder" because she would repeat herself constantly. Grandin states, "I could laugh about it now, but back then it really hurt."

After graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Rindge, New Hampshire in 1966, Grandin went on to earn her bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, a master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in 1989.


Grandin is a prominent and widely cited proponent of autistic person's rights and animal rights. She has talked widely about her first-hand experiences of the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which motivates her work in humane livestock handling processes. Her business website promotes improvement of standards in slaughter plants and livestock farms. In 2004 she won a "Proggy" award in the "Visionary" category, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

One of her notable essays about animal welfare is "Animals Are Not Things," in which she posits that animals are technically property in our society, but the law ultimately gives them ethical protections or rights. She compares the properties and rights of owning cows, versus owning screwdrivers, enumerating how both can be utilized to serve human purposes in many ways but when it comes to inflicting pain, there is a vital distinction between such 'properties': a person can legally smash or grind up a screwdriver but cannot legally torture an animal.

Grandin became well known after being described by Oliver Sacks in the title narrative of his book An Anthropologist on Mars (1995); the title is derived from Grandin's description of how she feels around neurotypical people. She first spoke in public about autism in the mid-1980s, at the request of Ruth C. Sullivan, one of the founders of the Autism Society of America. Sullivan writes:

I first met Temple in the mid-1980s ...[at the] annual [ASA] conference.... Standing on the periphery of the group was a tall young woman who was obviously interested in the discussions. She seemed shy and pleasant, but mostly she just listened... I learned her name was Temple Grandin... It wasn't until later in the week that I realized she was someone with autism... I approached her and asked if she'd be willing to speak at the next year's [ASA] conference. She agreed... The next year... Temple first addressed an [ASA] audience... people were standing at least three deep... The audience couldn't get enough of her. Here, for the first time, was someone who could tell us from her own experience, what it was like to be extremely sound sensitive ("like being tied to the rail and the train's coming")... She was asked many questions: "Why does my son do so much spinning?" "Why does he hold his hands to his ears? "Why doesn't he look at me?" She spoke from her own experience, and her insight was impressive. There were tears in more than one set of eyes that day... Temple quickly became a much sought-after speaker in the autism community.

Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism, and supportive teachers who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She claims she is a primarily visual thinker and has said that words are her second language. Temple attributes her success as a humane livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is a characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head, that can be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She is also able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows. Her insight into the minds of cattle has taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive, and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. She was named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 2009.

As a partial proponent of neurodiversity, Grandin has expressed that she would not support a cure of the entirety of the autism spectrum.

In 2012, when the American beef industry was struggling with public perception of its use and sale of pink slime, Grandin spoke out in support of the food product. She said, “It should be on the market. It should be labeled. We should not be throwing away that much beef."

Personal life

Grandin says that "the part of other people that has emotional relationships is not part of me", and she has neither married nor had children. Beyond her work in animal science and welfare and autism rights, her interests include horse riding, science fiction, movies and biochemistry.

She has noted in her autobiographical works that autism affects every aspect of her life. She has to wear comfortable clothes to counteract her sensory processing disorder and has structured her lifestyle to avoid sensory overload. She regularly takes anti-depressants, but no longer uses a squeeze-box (hug machine), a device which she invented at the age of 18 as a form of stress relief therapy, stating in February 2010 that: "It broke two years ago, and I never got around to fixing it. I'm into hugging people now."

On August 5, 2013, Grandin's mother, Eustacia Cutler, published an article on The Daily Beast linking autistic men with child pornography.[15] The article met with outrage from the autistic community for lacking any evidence supporting Cutler's claims, including an article by Emily Willingham on issued a response to the article in an interview on the blog Life Tinted Blue.


In 2010, Grandin was listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the "Heroes" category. She received a Double Helix Medal in 2011.[18] She has received honorary degrees from many universities including Carnegie Mellon University in the United States (2012), McGill University in Canada (1999), and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (2009).

In popular culture

Grandin has been featured on major media programs, such as Lisa Davis's It's Your Health, ABC's Primetime Live, the Today Show, and Larry King Live, the NPR show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and written up in Time magazine, People magazine, Discover magazine, Forbes and The New York Times. In 2012, Grandin was interviewed on Thriving Canine Radio to discuss "A Different Perspective on Animal Behavior."

She was the subject of the Horizon documentary “The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow,” first broadcast by the BBC on June 8, 2006, and Nick News in the spring of 2006. She has also been a subject in the series First Person by Errol Morris.

Grandin is the focus of a semi-biographical HBO film, titled Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as Grandin. The movie was released in 2010, was nominated for 15 Emmys, and received five awards, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Best Actress in a Drama. Grandin was on stage as the award was accepted, and spoke briefly to the audience. Coincidentally, the 2010 Emmy Awards happened on Grandin's birthday. At the 2011 Golden Globes, Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.

Grandin was featured in Beautiful Minds: A Voyage Into the Brain, a documentary produced in 2006 by colourFIELD tell-a-vision, a German company. She appeared in a 2011 documentary on Sci Channel, "Ingenious Minds". She was named one of 2010's 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

She was also interviewed by Michael Pollan in his best-selling book, The Omnivore's Dilemma,[28] in which she discussed the livestock industry.


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Temple Grandin's Timeline

August 29, 1947
Boston, Suffolk, MA, USA