Childhood & Early Life
Mary Temple Grandin was born on August 29, 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts, as the eldest of four children, to real estate agent Richard Grandin and writer-singer-actress Eustacia Cutler.
She was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and was marked brain-damaged during that period, and her parents were suggested a long-term care facility for her.
Her mother consulted a neurologist who recommended speech therapy, following which she was enrolled in a structured nursery school while a caregiver was hired at home to keep her engaged with turn-taking games.
She started speaking at the age of four and was fortunate to be guided by supportive and sympathetic staff at school, though she faced difficulties in social interaction with peers.
She completed her schooling from Hampshire Country School in 1966 and graduated from Franklin Pierce College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1970.
She enrolled in Arizona State University to study animal science and graduated with a master’s degree in 1975, followed by a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
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She devised a squeeze-box called ‘hug machine’ while studying in high school to relieve herself from stress and tension, which is now used by autistic children as well as adults as a comfort therapy, though in a modified form.
While studying animal science, she worked in the cattle industry and also as a livestock editor at ‘Arizona Farmer Ranchman’ for five years till 1975.
After earning a master’s degree in 1975, she established Grandin Livestock Handling Systems, through which she gained considerable knowledge and experience in handling animals at slaughterhouses.
She conducted several research studies which were subsequently published in different academic journals and industry trade publications, earning her respect and recognition.
In 1986, she published her autobiography ‘Emergence: Labeled Autistic’, which was re-released a decade later when she started gaining popularity for her work.
After obtaining her doctorate in 1989, she started working as a consultant to companies that operated large animal slaughter plants, giving them advise and suggestions to give their cattle a quality life.
Her suggestions of improving the standards of slaughter plants and livestock farms are implemented by top fast-food companies, including McDonalds, Burger King, and ConAgra to provide quality food to their consumers.
She is the co-author of ‘Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism’ (2004) and ‘Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships’ (2005).
She compiled her study and research of animal welfare in the New York Times best-selling book ‘Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior’, which released in 2005.
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She co-authored ‘Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals’ with Catherine Johnson in 2009, which was included in the best-seller list of the New York Times.
In 2010, her life story was adapted into an inspiring semi-biographical HBO film ‘Temple Grandin’, featuring Claire Danes in the lead role, which won several Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.
She made special appearances in the documentaries ‘Beautiful Minds: A Voyage Into the Brain’ and ‘Ingenious Minds’ in 2006 and 2011, respectively.
She has made appearances on various TV programs including PrimeTime Live, Larry King Live, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, 48 Hours, Today Show, It’s Your Health, 60 Minutes, and 20/20.
She has been featured on numerous international magazines, namely, The New York Times, People magazine, Forbes, Times magazine, Discover magazine, and US News and World Report.
Her other notable books include ‘Thinking in Pictures, and Other Reports from My Life with Autism’ (1995), ‘Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals’ (1998), and ‘The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum’ (2013).
Presently, she works at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, as an associate professor of animal science.
In order to reduce panic, stress, hesitation and pain experienced by animals upon the sight of a slaughterhouse, she designed a curved corral or circular chute unlike the standard straight chutes, thereby improving plant efficiency.
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She advocated the re-location of hogs to less crowded and cooler places to reduce the levels of PSE or ‘pale, soft and exudative’ in pork, eventually lowering the glycogen levels in the muscles and giving a good pH-balanced meat.
Awards & Achievements
In 1995, she was honored with the Industry Advancement Award from American Meat Institute and Animal Management Award from American Society of Animal Science.
She was given the Forbes Award from National Meat Association and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Award for humane ethics in action from Purdue University, in 1998.
In 1999, she received the ‘Woman of the Year’ award for her contribution to agriculture from Progressive magazine and Humane Award from American Veterinary Medical Association.
She bagged the Richard L. Knowlton Award for Innovation from ‘Meat Marketing and Technology’ magazine two times in a row, in 2001 and 2002.
She received a ‘Proggy’ award in the ‘Visionary’ category from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and President’s Award from National Institute of Animal Agriculture, in 2004.
In 2009, she became a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
She was included in the list of ‘100 most influential people in the world’ in the ‘Heroes’ category by the Time Magazine in 2010.
She was honored with a Double Helix Medal by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in 2011.
She is a recipient of various honorary degrees from different universities, some being McGill University, Canada (1999), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden (2009), and Carnegie Mellon University, United States (2012).