Topsy’s electrocution on Coney Island, New York on January 4, 1903.

“Rather, the animal biography responds to and tries to capture our experience of other animals as individuals, with their own personalities, idiosyncrasies and each and every one with a self of its own, as well as our desire to lend voice and recognition to these individual creatures,” write Andre Krebber and Mieke Roscher in the volume they edited called Animal Biography: Re-framing Animal Lives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) Writing in my chapter, “Topsy: The Elephant We Must Never Forget,” in this anthology, I wrote

The function of a biography is to make the subject visible by recovering and reconstructing the life of an individual, regardless of species.

The publication of this chapter is part fulfillment of my commitment to Topsy that her life and death shall not be forgotten.

There is one Asian elephant whose biography recounts a tragic life and a gruesome death we should never forget. Topsy’s biography reveals archaic animal cruelty unimaginable today; nonetheless harm to individual elephants and threats to entire populations are as significant now as they were in her time.

To learn more, you’re invited to click here to download a PDF of the pre-publication version of this chapter.