Robert Sapolsky studies the universal human ailment of stress, but his main research subjects are the wild baboons of Kenya.
We all have some measure of stress, and Robert Sapolsky explores its causes as well as its effects on our bodies (his lab was among the first to document the damage that stress can do to our hippocampus). Every year, he goes to Kenya to visit a population of wild baboons, who experience stress very similarly to humans. By measuring hormone levels and stress-related diseases in each primate, he determines their relative stress, looking for patterns in personality and social behavior that might contribute. These exercises have given Sapolsky amazing insight into all primate social behavior, including our own.
Besides being an accomplished researcher, Sapolsky has a special knack for conveying his complex work with ease and humor. He’s authored four popular books, among them Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and The Trouble With Testosterone. He’s also a recipient of the famous MacArthur "Genius Grant" and subject of the National Geographic documentary Killer Stress.