Frans de Waal started his career in his native Holland, where he studied biology before moving to the United States, in 1981. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from aggression to morality and culture. His six popular books - translated into over a dozen languages - have made him one of the world's best known primatologists. He received the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Peacemaking Among Primates (1989), and together with wildlife photographer Frans Lanting produced the first and only overview of bonobo behavior: Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (1997).

With his discovery of reconciliation among primates, de Waal founded the field of animal conflict resolution research. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. De Waal has also edited nine scientific volumes.

He is C. H. Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in Atlanta. He has been elected to the (US) National Academy of Sciences (see his 2005 profile in PNAS, 320 KB), the American Philosophical Society, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.