By People Staff
March 19, 1984 12:00 PM

by Desmond Morris

Fascinated by the subject of age, Morris, the zoologist-author of The Naked Ape, has devoted two facing pages in this volume to each year of human life. One entry starts, “Fifty-five is the beginning of ‘old age’ according to Hippocrates…” Then, under “Life Expectancy,” Morris writes that in Peru males can expect to live to be 55 while in Algeria and Honduras women have a 55-year life expectancy rate. At 55, Ho Chi Minh became president of North Vietnam and Mao became head of the People’s Republic of China. Those who died at 55 include Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Emily Dickinson. At 3, John Stuart Mill was learning Greek, Elizabeth Taylor was performing in a ballet before King George V and Mozart was playing the harpsichord. At 6, Dolly Parton was strumming the mandolin, Richard Strauss composed his Christmas Song and Shirley Temple won an Oscar. Morris also includes accounts of misfortunes that befell some well-known figures at various ages. His conclusions about all this information, he admits, are “contradictory,” yet he seems to think that the book may be taken as some sort of guide to long life. It isn’t. It is really just a cotton-candy collection of random information about the famous. Morris, by the way, is 56, at which age William Gilbert published his pioneering work on magnetism in 1600 and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel completed his tower in Paris in 1889. (Viking, $17.95)