A Big Screen Reveal of Big Heroes: Temple Grandin


Many scientists exerted extensive efforts to benefit people by their research and inventions; yet, not many know their stories or what they have achieved. Here comes the role of the media to shed light on their lives and show people what they endured for the sake of their comfort. We present here an example, which is Temple Grandin movie (2010).

Directed by Mick Jackson and featuring Claire Danes, Julia Ormond, and David Strathairn, the 2010 movie talks about the autistic icon Temple Grandin, a woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry despite her disability. The movie received seven Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award.

Grandin is widely celebrated as one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism. She is also the inventor of the “hug box”, a device to calm those on the autism spectrum. In the 2010 Time 100, an annual list of the one-hundred most influential people in the world, she was named in the “Heroes” category.

At the age of two, Grandin was diagnosed with autism, her treatments included extensive speech therapy, which helped draw out and reinforce Grandin’s communicative abilities; she began to speak at the age of four. Although her parents sought the best possible teachers, social interactions remained difficult in middle and high school, where other students teased Grandin regularly for her verbal tics.

Despite these difficulties, Grandin achieved considerable academic success; she earned a degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, followed by a Master’s degree in Animal Science from Arizona State University, and a Doctoral degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois. She then worked as a consultant to companies with large animal slaughterhouse operations, developing animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry, and consulting with McDonalds, Wendy’s International, Burger King, and other companies on animal welfare.

Grandin has performed extensive work on the design of handling facilities; half the cattle in the USA and Canada are handled in equipment she has designed for meat plants. She published several hundred industry publications, book chapters, and technical papers on animal handling, in addition 63 refereed journal articles, and ten books. She is currently a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, where she continues her research while teaching courses on livestock handling and facility design.

In her essay Animals Are Not Things, Grandin argues that while animals are technically property in our society, the law ultimately grants them certain key protections. Her book Animals in Translation was a New York Times bestseller, and her book Livestock Handling an Transport now has a third edition. Other popular books authored by Dr. Grandin are Thinking in Pictures, Emergence Labeled Autistic, Animals Make us Human, Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, The Way I See It, and The Autistic Brain.

In the Autistic community, Grandin has taken strong positions; she advocates early intervention, including the training of teachers to direct each child’s specific fixations. She is a champion of “neurodiversity” and has opposed the notion of a comprehensive cure for autism. She argues that her contributions to the field of animal welfare would not have been possible without the insights and sensitivities that are a consequence of her autism.



*Published in SCIplanet, Autumn 2016 Issue "The Invisible People of Science".


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